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Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Richard Ransohoff Wins 2012 John Dystel Prize for MS Research -- Provided far-reaching insights on immune activity in the central nervous system

February 21, 2012

Professor Richard M. Ransohoff, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute and Mellen Center for MS Treatment and Research, has been chosen by a committee of his peers to receive the National MS Society/American Academy of Neurology’s 2012 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research. Dr. Ransohoff is being honored for pioneering work in MS that led to new insights on immune activity in the brain and spinal cord (neuroimmunology) , particularly the role of messenger proteins known as “chemokines.” The $15,000 prize is being presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in New Orleans in April.

“Dr. Ransohoff has been a galvanizing figure in neuroimmunology research and a true thought leader,” said Benjamin M. Segal, MD (University of Michigan) and Thomas Lane, PhD (University of California, Irvine), who nominated Dr. Ransohoff to receive the Dystel Prize. “The insights that Dr. Ransohoff’s discoveries have provided could ultimately pave the way for the development of a new class of drugs in MS based on chemokines.”

Dr. Ransohoff’s contributions: Dr. Ransohoff’s most far-reaching research contributions are in applying the study of the role of chemokines – (pronounced KEEmoekynz) messengers that act as attractants – in the immune attack on the brain and spinal cord that occurs in MS. In 1993, Dr. Ransohoff discovered that astrocytes – star-shaped brain cells known for supporting the brain’s structure – actually produced chemokines that attracted immune cells to move toward the brain in mice with MS-like disease. (The FASEB Journal 1993;7(6):592-600) He extended these studies to investigate chemokines in immune cells that were isolated from people with MS, meticulously analyzing MS tissues. His results showed that cerebrospinal fluid levels of specific chemokines were in fact altered during MS attacks, and the docking sites for these proteins were detected on numerous cells involved in the immune response. (The Journal of Clinical Investigation 1999;103(6):807-815)

Dr. Ransohoff has also shown that chemokines may actually help determine whether nervous system repair occurs during the course of MS. He studied immature cells that make myelin, called oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs). Myelin surrounds and supports nerve fibers and is a target of the immune attacks in MS. Along with colleague Robert Miller, PhD, Dr. Ransohoff showed that deactivating a docking site or receptor for chemokines, called “CXCR2,” improved the development of rodent OPCs and allowed for myelin repair.(The Journal of Neuroscience 1998;18(24):10457-10463) Dr. Ransohoff has continued to research CXCR2 and his findings indicate it to be a promising target for therapeutic strategies aimed at stimulating nervous system repair. Administering an antibody that blocks CXCR2 improved myelin repair in mice with MS-like myelin damage. (The Journal of Neuroscience 2010;30(27):9074-83)

CXCR2 is a drug target with compounds in clinical trials for indications other than MS, so these findings may lead to innovative strategies that address both the immune attack and myelin damage in MS. Dr. Ransohoff’s research indicates that chemokine receptors like CXCR2 are present and functional on both immune cells and resident brain cells. He is now funded by a research grant from the National MS Society to study different cell types with and without chemokine receptors to clarify how some of these cells participate in tissue damage and – importantly – tissue repair. This novel approach should lead directly to effective new therapeutic approaches to stop damaging disease activity in MS.

Sharing knowledge: Dr. Ransohoff is a world leader in translational neuroimmunology, authoring several books and more than 300 publications in peer reviewed journals. He has served on many advisory boards, including the National MS Society’s National Clinical Advisory Board and previously, serving as chair of one of the Society’s Scientific Peer Review Committees. In 2009, Dr. Ransohoff was honored for his service to the Society’s Ohio Buckeye Chapter with induction into the Society’s National Volunteer Hall of Fame. His has served on the chapter's Board of Trustees and chaired its Clinical Advisory Committee.

Dr. Ransohoff is sought after to speak about neuroimmunology, and has provided hundreds of invited lectures and presentations worldwide since 1997. He organized the first NIH/NINDS “Workshop on Chemokines and MS” and recently was invited to chair the Nervous System section of the Cell Press Inaugural Symposium on “Inflammation and Disease.” Dr. Ransohoff reviews papers for numerous peer reviewed medical journals. He introduced a Clinical Neuroimmunology section into The Journal of Neuroimmunology, served as a Highlights Editorial Advisor for Nature Reviews Immunology (2006-2011), and currently serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for Trends in Immunology, and as Associate Editor of Neurology.

Early in his career, Dr. Ransohoff received a Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholarship from the National MS Society and a Clinical Investigator Development Award from the National Institutes of Health. He also has been repeatedly listed in the “Best Doctors in America.” Dr. Ransohoff has mentored dozens of young men and women who are engaged in scientific research, or serving as practicing neurologists, around the globe.

About the Prize: The $15,000 Dystel Prize is given jointly by the National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology, and is funded through the Society’s John Dystel Multiple Sclerosis Research Fund. The late Society Honorary Life National Board of Directors member Oscar Dystel and his late wife Marion established this fund in 1994 in honor of their son John Jay Dystel, an attorney whose promising career was cut short by progressive disability from MS. (John died of complications of the disease in June 2003.) Previous winners of the Prize are Drs. Donald Paty (1995), Cedric Raine (1996), John Kurtzke (1997), Henry McFarland (1998), W. Ian McDonald (1999), Kenneth Johnson (2000), John Prineas (2001), Stephen Waxman (2002), Bruce Trapp (2003), Lawrence Steinman (2004), Jack Antel (2005), William Sibley (2006), Howard Weiner (2007), Stephen Hauser (2008), David Miller (2009), David Hafler (2010), and Brian Weinshenker (2011). Read more about other Dystel Prize winners.

Biography: Dr. Ransohoff is Director of the Neuroinflammation Research Center in the Department of Neurosciences of Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation; Staff Neurologist in the Foundation’s Mellen Center for MS Treatment and Research; Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Foundation’s Lerner College of Medicine; and Professor in the Department of Pathology at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Ransohoff received his undergraduate degree in literature from Bard College and his medical degree with honors from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. He completed residencies in internal medicine at Mt Sinai Medical Center in Cleveland and in neurology at Cleveland Clinic, where he served as Chief Resident. Dr. Ransohoff completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Timothy Nilsen in the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He joined the faculty of the Cleveland Clinic in 1984.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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