Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, a leading neurology researcher at the Gladstone Institutes at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), won the 2018 Barancik Prize for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis Research. Akassoglou will receive the award and deliver the Prize lecture at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum (Feb. 28- March 2) in Dallas, Texas.
The Barancik Prize for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis Research seeks to distinguish and support a scientist or team of scientists for outstanding novelty and originality in scientific research relevant to multiple sclerosis (MS), particularly potential research on the treatment and cure for the disease.
This internationally recognized annual prize is made possible by the generosity of the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, and is given through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Ruptures in the vasculature in the blood-brain barrier allow the entry of blood proteins into the brain. Akassoglou and her team study how these blood molecules interact with brain cells and potentially change their functions.
The team found that some of these blood molecules could induce inflammation and the formation of edema (swelling) as well as neuronal damage in a variety of neurological diseases, including MS and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as stroke and spinal cord injury.
In a series of experiments, Akassoglou’s team first showed that deposits in MS lesions of one such molecule called fibrin, known for its role in blood clotting, can hamper the natural nervous system repair and activate microglia — immune cells in the brain — triggering inflammation and nerve damage.
As a proof of principle for developing experimental therapeutics, the team then used an antibody that inhibits fibrin, and found it decreased the activation of microglia and reduced subsequent damage to nerve fibers in mice.
Akassoglou’s team is now developing experimental treatments designed to prevent fibrin from causing damage without affecting its role in blood clotting.
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