More MS news articles for November 1999

Cleveland Clinic Scientists Receive $4.5 Million Grant to Study Mechanisms of Multiple Sclerosis Research project aims to identify therapeutic targets

Tuesday November 23, 11:43 am Eastern Time
Company Press Release
SOURCE: Cleveland Clinic Foundation

CLEVELAND, Nov. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have awarded a $4.5 million, five-year grant to researchers at the Cleveland Clinic to study tissue injury and inflammation in multiple sclerosis. Ideally, the project will identify potential new treatments and monitoring tools to gauge the progress of patients with the disease.

``The underlying hypothesis to this grant is that in multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory process takes place in the brain,'' said principal investigator Richard M. Ransohoff, M.D., a staff neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic's Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research. ``This process leads to damage first in the myelin -- tissue that insulates nerves and allows the conduction of impulses from one part of the body to another -- and subsequently to nerve fibers called axons. Such damage eventually leads to progressive disability.''

The NIH grant will fund three research components connected with this project:

     *  Researchers in Dr. Ransohoff's laboratory will study multiple sclerosis-related inflammation at the molecular level to determine specific targets for therapy.
     *  Bruce Trapp, Ph.D., and colleagues will examine the ways in which axons are destroyed to identify specific proteins or chemicals to protect them. The focus of multiple sclerosis research has traditionally been the destruction of myelin; however, recent research has uncovered the importance of axon damage in the disease.
     *  Scientists in the laboratory of Richard A. Rudick, M.D., will work to develop a magnetic resonance imaging technique to monitor the       inflammatory and destructive processes in multiple sclerosis. This will allow physicians to quickly assess patients and determine whether certain treatments have long-term benefit.

``The fundamental problem with multiple sclerosis is that it's an extremely deceptive disease,'' said Dr. Ransohoff. ``For the first 10 or 20 years they have the disease, the majority of patients appear to be doing rather well. It's only after a long period of latency that they begin to deteriorate in a way that has thus far proven to be quite refractory to treatment. So it's highly important for us to be able to understand at a fundamental level what's going on early in the disease. We know that during the entire 10- to 20-year dormancy period, the disease is causing damage that sets the stage for progression that occurs later. By the end of this grant, we expect to have advanced the field significantly.''

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease of the central nervous system affecting 350,000 people in North America that often results in physical disability. Symptoms can be as mild as numbness in the limbs or as severe as paralysis or loss of vision. ``In the great majority of cases, we know that patients have the disease even during the long latent period,'' Dr. Ransohoff said. ``They have new attacks of symptoms about every other year, on average. The attacks can cause inconvenience in this early stage, but in general, 50% of patients with multiple sclerosis are walking unassisted 15 years after the diagnosis. It's only after that point that more than 50% of patients need canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. That may not sound bad until you consider that most people are diagnosed around the age of 30, so that these are 45- and 50- year-old people needing assistance to get around.''

The Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research at the Cleveland Clinic offers state-of-the-art resources to provide the most advanced specialized care for multiple sclerosis patients. The Mellen Center staff provides high-quality care and education about the disease for patients, their families, physicians, and allied health care providers, and also conducts clinical and basic research related to the cause, effects, management, and cure of multiple sclerosis.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, founded in 1921, integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education in a private, non-profit group practice. At the Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic Florida in 1998, nearly 1,000 full-time salaried physicians representing more than 100 medical specialities and subspecialties provided for 1,735,484 outpatient visits and 49,893 hospital admissions for patients from throughout the United States and more than 80 countries. In 1997, The Cleveland Clinic Health System was formed. It now comprises The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Euclid, Fairview, Hillcrest, Huron, Lakewood, Lutheran, Marymount and South Pointe hospitals, and the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital for Rehabilitation. With 3,010 staffed beds, the Cleveland Clinic Health System offers broad geographic coverage, a full continuum of care, improved quality and lower cost of care to Northeast Ohio residents.

The Cleveland Clinic's web site address is: http://www.clevelandclinic.org

SOURCE: Cleveland Clinic Foundation