More MS news articles for May 2000

Irish Scientists to Examine Crucial Areas of the Brain

New Research is under way into the causes of Neurological Disease

ROBIN MORDFIN REPORTS
Irish Times
08-May-2000 12:00:00 am

Two Irish scientists have received Galen Fellowships to study previously inaccessible parts of the brain that are thought to be crucial to two of the most devastating neurological disorders.

Dr John Waddington, a professor of neuroscience at the Royal College of Surgeons, and Dr Meenakshi Mirakhur, the head of neuropathology at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, will be working to determine how these areas affect the causes and treatments of schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.

The disruption of the blood-brain barrier, a protective layer around the brain, and its effect on MS, is the subject of Dr Mirkhur's research. Normally, the barrier acts as a filter on substances that enter the brain. However, it is thought that malfunctions in this barrier can allow inappropriate substances into the brain and lead to inflammation and the development, in certain circumstances, of multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease of the central nervous system in which parts of the brain and the spinal cord tissues are destroyed. More than 10,000 people in Ireland suffer from the disease. There are a number of varieties of MS and symptoms can range from slight numbness to paralysis. Dr Mirakhur and her team are attempting to determine, by looking at the brain tissue of people who have died at various stages in the disease, when and how the bloodbrain barrier breaks down.

'We will be using new con-focal laser microscopy which will allow us to study the barrier in three dimensions,' Dr Mirakhur explained. 'Instead of using a light source, we will be able to pass a laser through it to pick up very small discontinuities that cannot be seen with a regular microscope.'

Why the tight cells around the barrier are loosening, and when they begin to do so, is the focus of Dr Mirakhur's research. However, because the approach she is using is new and because there has not been a great deal of research done on the barrier before, getting results may take some time.