University of Illinois Researchers Win $300,000 Falk Award to Improve MS Drug Delivery

A research team at the University of Illinois College of Medicine has received $300,000 from the Falk Medical Research Trust to develop a novel drug delivery method that could improve the treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis. Established in 1979, the Dr. Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust - Catalyst Award is granted every year to a dozen U.S. research groups. It provides one year of funding to high-risk, high-reward projects to complete preliminary studies. Catalyst Program winners who achieve their goals can then enroll in the Falk Transformational Awards Program, which offers $1 million for two years to further support the projects. The UIC team, led by Ernesto Bongarzone and Maria Givogri, hope to transform naturally occurring small vesicles released by several cell types into drug targeted delivery vehicles. Cells commonly use these vesicles to communicate with each other. They pack inside the vesicles with many cell products, like proteins and small RNA molecules, then release them into the bloodstream and cerebrospinal fluid. These vesicles can travel to distant places in the body until they find and fuse with their target cell, dumping their cargo. However, the content of vesicles may not always be good, as they have been shown to play a role in spreading cancer, said fellow anatomy and cell biology professor Givogri. "There is much more to learn about how they function in this way,” she added. The team will use the Catalyst Award to test different methods of vesicles production from mesenchymal stem cells. They will also engineer these vesicles to specifically target oligodendrocytes in the brain and spinal cord. Oligodendrocytes are cells that specialize in producing the nerve cell’s protective myelin layer. The efficacy and safety of this new delivery method will be tested in mice. After completing these preliminary studies, the team expects to apply for further funding. The UIC researchers plan to use the vesicles to transport and deliver small RNA molecules, called microRNAs, that can boost myelin production.

Evidence of Lymph Vessels in Human Brain May Offer New Insights into MS, Other Disorders

Groundbreaking evidence of the existence of lymphatic vessels in the human brain could answer the question of how the brain gets rid of waste products, and holds clear implications for neuroinflammatory disorders such as multiple sclerosis. The lymphatic system is a network that helps the body to rid itself of toxins and waste products. Lymphatic vessels, which are similar to blood vessels, transport a clear fluid – lymph – which is filtered in lymph nodes. It has long been thought that the brain lacks lymphatic vessels. However, a team of researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), building on previous research in rodent brains, recently found evidence that the brain may actually drain waste through lymphatic vessels. The researchers injected healthy volunteers with a magnetic dye called gadobutrol, which is usually used as a contrast agent to image blood vessels. They then scanned the brains of these individuals using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) under specific settings. This allowed them to view the dye within the outer layer of the brain, known as the dura. The MRI revealed that the dye was visible both as dots and straight lines, which might indicate lymph vessels. This suggested that the dye leaked out of blood vessels into the dura and were later 'picked up' by lymphatic vessels. These vessels were not seen when the volunteers were injected with another dye that does not leak out of blood vessels. Evidence of lymphatic vessels in the brain was also found in autopsied human brain tissue. Although a pair of 2015 studies had shown evidence of lymphatic vessels in the brains of mice, this is the first study that demonstrates that a similar system exists in human brains. “For years we knew how fluid entered the brain. Now we may finally see that, like other organs in the body, brain fluid can drain out through the lymphatic system,” Reich said . In addition to changing the way we think about the lymphatic system and the brain, this study lays the foundations for future research to investigate whether the function of the lymphatic system is altered in the brains of patients with multiple sclerosis or other disorders affecting the nervous system.

Researchers Identify Nerve Pathway Linking Brain Inflammation, Gut Dysfunction in MS

Chronic stress and inflammation in the brain can cause multi-organ dysfunction including severe gut failure, mediated by a newly identified nerve pathway in animal models of multiple sclerosis, a Japanese study shows. MS is an autoimmune disease caused by CD4+ T-cells that cross the blood-brain barrier protecting the central nervous system. This inflames and stresses the brain and spinal cord. In previous studies, a team led by professor Masaaki Murakami of Japan's Hokkaido University showed that these cells could cross the blood-brain barrier in specific sites. These entrance sites depend on brain regional activation, which was found to be triggered by specific nerve interactions — a mechanism the team called gateway reflexes. In collaboration with other Japanese researchers and a team from Germany, the project aimed to address the potential correlation among chronic stress, brain inflammation and organ failures in MS. Using mice with MS-like disease — the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis model — researchers found that animals that had autoreactive CD4+ T-cells and which were exposed to stressful conditions developed severe symptoms such as gastrointestinal failure, or even death. Detailed analysis of the animals' brains showed that in stressed mice, CD4+ T-cells accumulated in two specific sites in the center of the brain around blood vessels. This event would cause inflammation around those vessels, and activation of a nerve pathway that is commonly turned off. This switch led to gut dysfunction, bleeding and failure. "These results demonstrate a direct link between brain micro-inflammation and fatal gastrointestinal diseases via the establishment of a new neural pathway under stress," Murakami, the study's senior author, said in a news release. Researchers were able to prevent gut symptoms by inhibiting inflammation in the brain or blocking the nerve pathway responsible for driving the signals from the brain to the gastrointestinal tract. "Micro-inflammation in the brain is also seen in Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease," Murakamai concluded. "So it's of particular interest to investigate possible connections between brain micro-inflammations and organ dysfunctions, including those within the brain itself, in those patients."

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is one of the most common symptoms of many chronic illnesses, including lupus, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. In this Mind Over Meniere’s video, Glenn describes how brain fog affects him on a daily basis. Discover some Pilates exercises suitable for multiple sclerosis patients.  Brain fog is more…

Hypoxia-Measuring Technology in MS Could Be Potential Biomarker for Treatment Responses

In a new study entitled “Reduced cortical microvascular oxygenation in multiple sclerosis: a blinded, case-controlled study using a novel quantitative near-infrared spectroscopy method,” a team of researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary investigated whether frequency domain near-infrared spectroscopy technology can measure the potential…