28 Nov 2018

Repairing a brain damaged by Multiple Sclerosis

Dr Steven Petratos at a Red Lab Coat 
Day, raising awareness of MS research
Congratulations to Dr Steven Petratos, who has won a Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation grant of $48,956 for his proposal, "Developing a novel drug for progressive MS". Dr Petratos has a research group in the Department of Neuroscience, Central Clinical School, working on targeting molecules involved in brain and spinal cord damage caused by Multiple sclerosis (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 suffering with MS.

Dr Steven Petratos said that this grant from the Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation will allow their group to 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."

If this project is successful, and in particular, the drug is shown to be safe and efficacious in repairing the damaged brain, then the fact that it has already been tested in clinical phase trials means that a drug company can immediately trial the drug in MS patient groups who are not responding to other therapies. Therefore, this project will provide the proof-of-principle studies necessary for the drug to enter clinical phase trials in MS patients.

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