Current Research Update
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PAST YEAR AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
The Center Without Walls (CWW) is made of six groups with complementary expertise in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research. The CWW exchanges scientific information and collaborates at multiple levels. Several new and exciting scientific achievements in the past year have continued to fuel the CWW’s commitment to find a cure for MS. Scientific meetings provide an open forum for discussion and presentation of novel ideas and findings. Centers with specific expertise provide valuable support to others, with each having a unique background. This constant exchange process is nurturing an outstandingly rich research activity. During these meetings, thirty key investigators of the six institutions shared information prior to publication. The specific scientific accomplishments of individual centers are contained in the individual reports. The highlights are presented below.
The Center Without Walls was very active in 2013, accomplishing many research projects thanks to the support of the Race to Erase MS. The Foundation is excited to fund state-of-the-art cutting edge research to Erase MS.
During this past year, the Foundation has supported six very promising junior scientists to help them establish their cutting edge research. During the coming year, the Foundation will continue supporting Drs. Dominguez, Davalos and Gourraud. In July 2013, the Foundation began supporting two new junior scientists: Drs. Barsukova and Saidha. Dr. Dominguez at Yale is studying immune cells, aka Th1 regulatory cells that dampen inflammation in the brain and unraveling the mechanisms that control these cells. Dr. Davalos at UCSF is sorting out how a protein of the blood, aka fibrinogen, is stimulating brain scavenger cells thereby contributing to the inflammation and nerve cell injury seen in MS scars. Dr. Gourraud at UCSF is advancing howwe can analyze more efficiently large genetic sets of information to advance our understanding of MS.
Dr. Barsukova-Bell at OHSU will examine the onset, progression and morphology of nerve cell degeneration in cortical grey matter and lesions in a mouse model of MS called EAE. An association between neuronal degeneration and calcium elevation, as well as neuroprotective effects of lowering calcium in neurons in cortical grey matter, will be investigated. Dr. Shiv Saidha at Hopkins will utilize a novel technology called optic coherence tomography (OCT), which can very precisely measure the health of nerves in the back of the eye called the retina and study how they degenerate. He will examine whether OCT measures of nerve damage in the eye can predict nerve damage in other parts of the brain.
Four pilot research grants were also awarded to highly exciting and innovative research projects. Dr. Hafler at Yale hypothesizes that chronic high salt intake in a genetically susceptible host may function as a trigger for the development of MS. He will investigate the role of high salt in manipulating immune functionality in patients.
The next project funded is the North American Imaging in MS (NAIMS) study. It is a collaborative effort led by Dr. Sicotte at Cedar-Sinai including MRI experts from the Race to Erase MS Center Without Walls and other colleagues. The aim of this project is to develop a standardized MS imaging protocol across multiple centers in North America and sensitive, reliable imaging based surrogates for disease progression that will accelerate MS research.
The third study sponsored by the Foundation is led by Dr. Lund at USC who will test if exercise can change the course of disease in a mouse model of MS. He plans to study the effect of exercise on the number and size of relapses, how severe the disease is and most importantly how exercise may prevent the damage that occurs in the brain.
The fourth research study is Dr. Weiner’s at USC. He plans to test a drug that works on multiple disease processes that are observed in MS, including inflammation, changes in blood vessel functions and neurodegeneration. This drug is known as human 3K3A-APC, and is modified from a protein called activated protein C (APC). All these talented scientists and doctors share the results of their research at Race to Erase MS symposium which foster the blossoming of promising junior researchers in order to one day cure MS.See our 2013 Newsletter for more information.