UK MS Society Investing $1.5M in Support of 9 Research Projects

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by Lindsey Shapiro, PhD |

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The MS Society of the U.K. intends to raise over £1.1 million (about $1.5 million) to support nine multiple sclerosis (MS) research projects, marking the return of the grants program it put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding will support research in the U.K. focused on brain imaging techniques, slowing MS progression, and disease self-management, among other areas.

These projects “could help improve the quality of life of people living with MS now,” the society stated in a press release.

Each year, scientists submit their research ideas to the society, with proposals then reviewed by leading MS researchers, clinical experts, and MS patients. High-quality applications that align with the organization’s research priorities may be eligible for funding.

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“We review [the applications] and choose the ones we think could help people with MS the most,” the society wrote.

This year, the MS Society selected nine different teams with projects focusing on different aspects of MS.

For example, researchers at King’s College London were awarded almost £100,000 (about $135,000) to develop an MRI technique that will measure how much myelin — the protective substance surrounding nerve cells that is mistakenly attacked in MS — is in a person’s brain. The technique will also be silent and faster to run than standard MRIs.

It could allow for clinicians to “better predict how [MS] might progress and choose the best treatment,” according to the MS society. “Not only will it be more comfortable, but it could help see if drugs are working in clinical trials more quickly.”

Another group, led by Jonathan Pansieri, PhD, at the University of Oxford, was granted nearly £250,000 (about $340,000) to study the mechanisms underlying nerve loss in progressive forms of MS.

Specifically, Pansieri and his team will evaluate the role of a protein called Nurr1 in inflammation and nerve cell loss. According to the MS society, “this project will help us understand more about what causes nerve loss in progressive MS, so we can develop treatments to stop it. Depending on the results of the study, Nurr1 itself could one day be tested as a potential treatment.”

Bowel problems are a MS common symptom that can affect a person’s quality of life, including their independence. With over £120,000 (about $163,000) in funding from the MS Society, Sue Woodward, PhD, with King’s College London, will work with MS patients, caregivers, and clinicians to develop a self-management program for bowel symptoms. An additional goal is to facilitate open discussions about the topic between patients and their doctors.

“These are just a few of the new projects we’re funding. By continuing to fund vital research, we can picture a future where everyone with MS has access to treatments that can help manage, or ultimately stop their MS,” the society wrote.

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