Pathways to MS Cures: Restore What’s Been Lost
Restoring what has been lost means reversing MS symptoms and recovering function. While disease-modifying therapies
can limit relapses and delay disease progression for many, they do not erase symptoms and restore abilities. By focusing on an integrated approach to repairing the myelin that insulates nerve fibers, as well as a better understanding of how wellness and lifestyle choices can improve symptoms, research in this area focuses on enabling those living with MS can live their best lives.
Here are just a few examples of Society-funded research teams leading the way:
Myelin repair in people has largely been measured through nerves in the eyes during recent clinical trials, limiting the pool of research participants to those with vision problems. Home-based trials using tools that assess other aspects of a person’s function could speed up the testing of promising myelin repair strategies. Riley Bove, MD, MSc (University of California, San Francisco) and colleagues have found that a specific molecule promotes myelin repair in lab animals. They are now testing this molecule in a home-based trial
of 50 women with MS, in which they are using questionnaires, video conference interviews, and other digital tools to measure the success of the experimental therapy.
Myelin is formed by cells (oligodendrocytes) that extend long processes that wrap around nerve fibers (axons). Some long-standing damaged areas of the brain and spinal cord (lesions) fail to regenerate myelin. In these lesions, oligodendrocytes are present and even can extend their processes toward axons but then are blocked from finishing the job, for unknown reasons. J. Bradley Zuchero, PhD (Stanford University, Stanford, CA) is studying myelin wrapping as it occurs normally in lab dishes and in a mouse model. Specifically, his team is investigating the role of structural scaffolding, called the cytoskeleton, which is present inside oligodendrocytes. This work may unlock the key to restarting myelin repair. Listen to a RealTalkMS podcast
featuring Dr. Zuchero.
People with MS often report significant differences in strength and function of their right and left legs. Differences in strength have been linked to poor walking ability, falls, and a reduced quality of life. Brett Fling, PhD (Colorado State University) and his team are testing the potential of a split-belt treadmill, where the speed of each leg can be controlled independently. This is designed to reduce strength differences and improve mobility in people with MS. The team is also using wearable sensors to see whether improvements using the treadmill can be translated to improving the typical walking that people do at home. Watch Dr. Fling and others discuss how their research is bringing us closer to MS cures.
and other mood disorders are common in people with MS, and being depressed has been linked to increased disability, lower quality of life and more severe fatigue and pain symptoms. Kathryn Fitzgerald, ScD (Johns Hopkins University) and team are looking for early signals of depression using novel methods. For example, the team is using activity monitors to measure 24-hour biological rhythms of people with MS and see if the readings relate to depression.
Explore research projects supported by the Society