Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
MS commonly occurs due to the specific destruction of the protective sheath of nerve fibres, known as myelin, by immune cells, which mistakenly attack this structure. However, it has been shown that MS does not only consist of this disease pattern but is a multifactorial disease with continual destruction of the nerve fibres and myelin even without large numbers of immune cells invading the brain and the spinal cord. Importantly, the molecules which may contribute or initiate such damage in MS are becoming known and by targeting these molecules during MS it may be possible to limit the destruction which occurs to nerve fibres and their protective myelin sheaths in the brain and spinal cord, promoting a better clinical outcome for individuals living with MS. We will investigate how damage occurs in myelinated nerve fibres with progressive clinical symptoms in experimental animal models of MS. We will overcome the deficits that propagate myelinated nerve fibre degeneration using a drug, which has been clinically tested to reach the brain and spinal cord. We will also investigate the drug’s ability to elicit repair of the MS-like brain from immature cells known as ‘stem cells’ as a proof-of-principle preclinical trial. The knowledge generated from this project may be the basis for future clinical trials in patients with progressive MS, in the hope of preventing and/or reversing their neurological symptoms.