MYELIN REPAIR SOLUTIONS WITHIN REACH
"Do I believe I can regain function and one day walk again? Yes, of course!" says Negar, diagnosed in 1998 and currently living with progressive MS. "It’s just a matter of time. And so I’m doing everything I can now to stay in the best physical shape I can, because I know that day is coming."
Negar’s positive outlook and determination to stay well is inspired by the tremendous momentum and promise that today’s MS research presents. Years of investigation spanning the entire research spectrum have brought us to this pivotal moment in time — where solutions, particularly in the area of myelin repair, are now closer than ever.
Finding ways to restore and protect the damaged nervous system is a key priority of the National MS Society’s research efforts, fueled by the NOW Campaign. This fall the Society took an important step in accelerating solutions that will restore function to people with MS like Negar by committing $7 million to support 15 new research projects focusing on approaches to repair myelin.
“The idea of rebuilding the nervous system and protecting it from ongoing MS damage was just a dream a few years ago,” noted Dr. Timothy Coetzee, the Society’s Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer. “Now, because of advances achieved by MS researchers and focused investments by the Society made possible through our supporters, we can see a future where people with MS will have treatments that could restore what’s been lost,” he added.
These new funding opportunities, in both commercial therapeutics and academic research, expand the Society’s portfolio to 88 active research projects focusing on repairing the nervous system in people with MS. Some examples of these investments include:
A research grant to University of North Carolina scientist Glenn Matsushima, PhD, to look for therapies that may reduce or halt MS damage to the cells that make myelin. His team is screening medicines already approved by the FDA for other uses, to see whether they prevent damage to these cells, and then testing them in rodents to further understand their potential as possible treatments for people with MS.
ENDECE Neural, a private biotechnology company, has received a Society grant to advance the preclinical development of the company’s lead compound, NDC-1308, focusing on repairing the protective myelin covering nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Previous studies in NDC-1308 demonstrated the ability to significantly repair myelin in mice.
With these critical investments made possible through the support of donors like you, the Society is committed to driving research focused on repairing the nervous system. Our goal is to identify treatments that will restore lost function to Negar and others like her. Negar believes that it is “just a matter of time” before these strategies will change the world for everyone impacted by MS.
MAKING EVERY CONNECTION COUNT FOR MS RESEARCH
Here at the Society, we like to think of ourselves as connectors — bringing the hopes of everyone with MS to researchers that are determined to find the answers, and connecting the best ideas with supporters like you willing to give generously to drive them forward.
The impact of connections on our momentum towards a world free of MS is so exciting. Connections like the ones Negar makes in the cover story and within our new NOW Campaign video. Negar’s story is one of hope and confidence — confidence that the Society’s pursuit of all promising research paths will uncover solutions that will allow her, and so many others, to regain what’s been lost.
As you will find through the pages of this issue of the NOW Quarterly Update, we are at a moment in time where solutions that can prevent further damage and return lost function and quality of life to so many living with MS seem within reach. We must continue to fuel this progress.
Negar’s story is inspiring to me and many others. You story is inspiring as well. As leaders in the MS research revolution, you can inspire friends, colleagues and family members by sharing your story this holiday season and inviting them to join the MS movement and contribute to the NOW Campaign. Together, we have the ability to accelerate the pace of our research and deliver on the hopes of everyone with MS.
President & CEO
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
VIEW RESEARCH LEADERS DISCUSSING REPAIR RESEARCH
On December 5th, the Society held its latest live webcast, Promising MS Research to Repair, Protect and Restore the Nervous System, featuring a panel of MS experts including the Society’s Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer, Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Dr. Ben Barres from Stanford University, recent Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research winner Dr. Jonah Chan from UCSF, and Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl from UCLA.
This lively discussion highlighted the many avenues Society scientists are taking in this promising area of research to understand the mechanisms behind nerve degeneration and myelin repair to drive solutions that can prevent further damage and restore function that MS has taken away.
If you missed the discussion on the 5th, visit the Society’s website to view a recording of the webcast. To learn more about the promising research these panelists are conducting, we’ve continued the discussion on the Society blog.
WE’VE REACHED HALFWAY!
Together we are driving MS research forward faster
than ever before through the NOW Campaign. With
your continued support and connections, we will
discover breakthroughs, treatments, rehabilitation,
prevention, and ultimately, an end to MS.
PROGRESS IN NERVOUS SYSTEM REPAIR REPORTED AT WORLDWIDE MS MEETING
Bruce F. Bebo, Jr., PhD, Associate Vice President of Discovery Research
Nearly 8,000 MS scientists and physicians from around the world traveled thousands of miles and devoted a week outside of their labs and clinics to attend the recent 2013 ECTRIMS meeting in Copenhagen. ECTRIMS stands for European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS. It’s a vital means for leaders in MS research and care to connect with other scientists and clinicians to share ideas, communicate new findings, form new partnerships and even learn what’s not working in order to foster research progress and enhance care.
Attendees heard about cutting-edge research that addresses virtually every aspect of the challenge to stop MS in its tracks, restore function, and end MS forever. An important area of focus and progress reported at the meeting regarded immune attacks in MS. A key target of those attacks is myelin, the insulating coating on the wire-like nerve axons. Promising early results were shared at ECTRIMS related to efforts to repair myelin and the cells that make myelin. This has relevance to people with all types of MS, but especially people with progressive MS.
These important advances can be attributed to National MS Society’s nervous system repair and protection initiative funded through the Promise 2010 campaign investments. This initiative formed a platform that continues to generate promising results, and the Society’s investment in this critical area remains a top priority. Progress in this field has been rapid. Here are a few highlights:
Cell therapy: A team from Milan, Italy led by Dr. Gianvito Martino, who was supported through the Society’s nervous system repair initiative, reported on progress in the strategy to repair myelin by introducing new repair cells into the system via transplantation. The team used mouse skin stem cells and forced them to become myelin-making cells. As in previous studies, after these cells were infused into the spinal cord, they promoted recovery in mice with the MS-like disease EAE. These cells didn’t actually make myelin themselves, and the team is starting to identify the growth factors they release, which stimulate natural repair and also reduce inflammation.
Stalled repair: Dr. Bruce Trapp’s team at Cleveland Clinic showed that new MS lesions undergo natural repair much better than older (“chronic”) ones. They’ve also reported that the problem is not a lack of cells capable of making new myelin in these old lesions, but their inability to produce new myelin, and work is now underway to figure out what the impediment is and how to jump-start the repair process.
Further, Dr. Larry Sherman at the Oregon Health and Science University reported that fragments of a molecule called hyaluronic acid (HA) accumulate in chronic lesions and could be at least partially responsible for the stalled myelin repair. They have identified an enzyme that chews up the HA into fragments and have shown that inhibitors of this enzyme promote remyelination. They are now figuring out how this works, in hopes of developing treatments that promote remyelination.
Clinical trials of repair strategies: Updates on repair therapies already being tested in human trials were also reported. Furthest along is anti-LINGO. LINGO can be thought of as a brake pedal for normal myelin growth, and blockading this protein with anti-LINGO has been shown to promote remyelination in animal models. So far anti-LINGO is reported to be well tolerated in people and so far no negative effects were seen using MRI scans.
This is just a small sampling of strong work presented at ECTRIMS. We’re not there yet, but this work holds the promise of uncovering new targets for stopping progression and stimulating repair.