“Our top priority is finding treatments that slow or stop MS for everyone,” Emma Gray, PhD, assistant director of research at the MS Society, said in a press release. “The work happening in Cambridge and Edinburgh is inventive, innovative and incredibly exciting, and will be vital to help us reach our goal.”
MS is caused by immune cells attacking the body’s own myelin, a fatty insulation that covers the long branches, called axons, that extend from nerve cells. When myelin is destroyed — a process called demyelination — the connections between neurons become defective and MS symptoms arise.
Teams at the two centers will investigate therapeutic approaches to promote myelin repair and protection.
“This pivotal investment from the MS Society will allow us to lead vital work in the study of nerve damage,” said Siddharthan Chandran, PhD, co-lead at the MS Society Edinburgh Centre for MS Research.
“We’ll be developing new ways to measure it, identifying new targets for treatments, and testing out the most promising in the lab,” he added.
Researchers at the center plan to develop a new platform to test novel therapies for MS. The platform uses robots to screen thousands of candidate molecules.
The identified molecules will then be tested both in zebrafish (an animal model of MS), cell lines, and human brain tissue samples. These will help researchers prioritize the best candidates for further testing in clinical trials.
Moreover, both research centers will be developing advanced brain imaging techniques to test the effectiveness of these molecules in myelin repair and nerve cell protection.
Additionally, researchers from the Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair, led by Alasdair Coles, PhD, and Thora Karadottir, PhD, will be looking into aging and myelin repair in children and adults.
The goal of their research is to identify how myelin repair changes over time and how it could be used to develop novel MS therapies. Also, the team intends to be the first to evaluate myelin in MS patients on a routine basis.
“We are excited to build on the Cambridge centre’s strong foundations in developing new treatments for people with MS, and bring in what we believe will be a new era for MS treatment,” said Karadottir. “Thanks to this generous donation, we can make discoveries that will benefit people living with MS worldwide.”
Chandran added: “Our ultimate goal is that five years from now we’ll have substantially improved our understanding, and hopefully be beginning to translate this into new treatments that slow, stop or even reverse disability progression in MS.”
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