All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for March 2004

Collaborative MS Research Center Awards

$3.3 Million Fuels Four New MS Research Centers in 2004

March, 2004
National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Four new research centers have been established by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to speed the search for the cause and cure of multiple sclerosis (MS), by teaming up investigators from diverse fields focusing on promising avenues of research. The new Collaborative MS Research Center Awards add $3.3 million to the Society's long-term research commitments to more than 300 research projects totaling over $50 million.

"All of the new centers are focusing on an area of MS research that raises tremendously exciting possibilities— nerve tissue repair," says Stephen C. Reingold, PhD, the Society's Vice President of Research Programs. "By combining the skills of experts in MS research, and specialists in similar diseases, or in new technological advances, these Centers hold great potential for speeding efforts to bring novel methods of tissue repair to the fore of MS treatment."

The individual five-year, $825,000 Center Awards do not fund "bricks and mortar" laboratory facilities, but rather to allow for flexible spending by collaborating teams based at the same or separate institutions. Each of the four new Centers focus on the debilitating, immune-based damage that occurs when MS attacks nerve-insulating myelin and nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.

MS specialist Peter A. Calabresi, MD (John Hopkins University) has assembled a crack team of Hopkins researchers to define how axons, the long arm of nerve cells, are damaged during MS, and to search for ways to protect them. Ultimately the group aims to identify new therapeutic approaches that will slow or stop disease progression.

Neurobiologist Jeffery D. Kocsis, PhD (Yale University) has forged a collaboration with other top-notch Yale scientists and physicians to explore facets of tissue damage in MS and to test ways, such as cell transplantation, to protect and repair central nervous system tissue. The group is focusing on strategies to restore function in persons with MS.

MS expert Moses Rodriguez, MD (Mayo Clinic) is leading an interdisciplinary team of outstanding Mayo researchers to screen small molecules called aptamers for their potential to help define functions of myelin-making cells. The team is investigating whether these newly discovered aptamers, and/or larger antibodies, can stimulate myelin repair.

Neuroscientist Bruce D. Trapp, PhD (Cleveland Clinic) has established a collaboration of scientists at Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University to search for ways to stimulate cells that can generate new myelin after it has been damaged by MS. The team is identifying populations of brain cells that reside in adults and finding ways to increase their potential as replacement cells.

The National MS Society launched the Collaborative MS Research Centers progam in 2003 with the funding of three Centers, which are focusing on: MS genetic susceptibility (Harvard Medical School); advanced imaging techniques to study MS progression (Washington University); and myelin repair processes (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute). The Society plans to create additional Centers each year to speed the search for a cure for MS.

The award-winning projects for 2003, and their principal investigators, were:

David A. Hafler, MD (Harvard Medical School, Boston), whose team is speeding up the search for MS genes.

Anne H. Cross, MD (Washington University, St. Louis) and colleagues, who are developing better diagnostic technologies for MS.

Charles D. Stiles, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), who is leading an investigation into possible strategies for repairing the damage to nerve-insulating myelin that occurs in MS.

Copyright © 2004, National Multiple Sclerosis Society