The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) awarded $14.6 million in grants supporting 43 new and multiyear research projects into multiple sclerosis (MS), part of a projected $36 million investment in disease research for 2019, the society announced on its website.
Funded projects include research into new ways of halting progressive MS, the role of diet and gut bacteria in the disease, and novel approaches to repair myelin.
All 43 projects aim to better answer basic questions about MS, the society said, such as:
- Why does MS affect certain people and not others?
- What is the cause of MS?
- How do we stop MS progression?
- How do we repair the damage caused by MS?
- How do we reverse symptoms and promote wellness?
Among grant winners is a study led by Francisco Quintana, a PhD at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, that will investigate the role of astrocytes in MS progression. Astrocytes are star-shaped cells (they belong to the group of glial cells) that provide neurons with energy and work as a platform to clean up their waste. They also have specific other tasks within the brain, like regulating blood flow and inflammation.
Trevor Kilpatrick, a PhD at the University of Melbourne, will lead work testing whether transplants of modified microglia — immune cells of the brain — can improve myelin repair. Myelin is the fat-rich substance that surrounds and protects nerve fibers, promoting communication among neurons, and which is damaged in MS.
A study at Rutgers University, led by Kouichi Ito, PhD, will examine whether a high-fiber supplement can reduce changes in gut bacteria that are associated with MS. Increasing studies suggest that certain bacteria residing in the human gut can trigger autoimmune reactions.
James Waschek, a PhD at UCLA, leads a project investigating the protective effects of a small protein (called PACAP) on nervous system damage in MS.
“The Society continues to make strategic research investments to address research priorities that will accelerate breakthroughs and build pathways to cures for MS,” Bruce Bebo, PhD, executive vice president of research for the National MS Society, said in a press release.
“This is an exciting and important time in MS research,” said Cyndi Zagieboylo, the society’s president and CEO. “As our MS prevalence research shows, there are nearly 1 million people with MS in the U.S. — that’s twice as many as previous estimates, and it means twice as many people need answers.
“That’s why it is so important to fund these studies to find solutions. Each year, hundreds of thousands of volunteers walk, run, bike and make individual donations to fund this research, so people with MS can live their best lives today as we seek a cure,” Zagieboylo added.
Since its establishment, the NMSS has awarded more than $1 billion in research funding. For a full list of projects it supports, please click here.