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Targeted Research Promise 2010

The National MS Society's bold new initiative for nervous system repair and protection in MS involves the largest grants ever offered by the Society and sets the stage for translating basic lab discoveries into clinical efforts to restore nerve function in people with MS. Four multinational, interdisciplinary teams are developing non-invasive tools and models, and designing clinical trials to pave the way for clinical testing to restore function in people with MS.

Principal Investigator
Professor Ian D. Duncan Ian D. Duncan, BVMS, PhD, FRCPath
University of Wisconsin, Madison

$3.4 million (out of a total of $15.6 million for the Repair and Protection initiative)

Research Team  
John O. Fleming, MD
Aaron Field, MD, PhD
Su-Chun Zhang, MD, PhD
Andrew L. Alexander, PhD
P. Charles Garell, MD
James E. Holden, PhD
Mary Elizabeth Meyerand, MS, PhD
Thomas Cook, PhD
Zsuzsanna Fabry, PhD
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Jeff W. M. Bulte, PhD
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Steven Goldman, MD, PhD
University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY

George DeVries, PhD
Hines Veterans Hospital, Hines, IL

Developing better imaging technologies to visualize myelin and nerve fiber damage, and to detect its repair, and exploring repair cell transplantation techniques.

Multiple sclerosis occurs when the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, damaging the myelin coating that insulates nerve fibers, and also damaging the nerve fibers themselves. Research indicates that damage to nerve fibers results in the progressive disability experienced by people with MS, more so damage to areas of the spinal cord.

Professor Ian D. Duncan, BVMS, PhD, is applying cutting-edge technologies in an effort to repair damage to nerve fibers in the spinal cord with funding from the National MS Society's "Promise 2010" Campaign. He has assembled a team of topnotch investigators from many fields of expertise to achieve substantial goals. Professor Duncan is no stranger to the Society - he earned his first Society-funded grant in 1985, and also is currently funded to explore how an antibiotic which usually fights infection may work against an MS-like disease in rodents.

Professor Duncan's first goal is to explore a strategy for repairing nervous system damage in models of the MS-like disease known as EAE. His team is isolating immature myelin-making cells from the brain, and transplanting them into animal models with both acute and chronic disease, examining their ability to form myelin around nerve fibers.

"We believe that transplanting myelin-making cells in conjunction with medical therapy aimed at protecting nerve fibers will lead to long-term neuroprotection and restoration of neurological function" for people with MS, says Professor Duncan.

This group is also developing new imaging methods that will enable them to observe closely, in a non-invasive way, where the cells go and how well they enhance myelin repair. The team is testing various methods to determine which are best for highlighting damage and for tracking responses to therapy.

The final phase of this project will involve translating this knowledge into people with MS. The team will identify individuals with MS for a small, early study of cell transplantation into chronic areas of damage in the spinal cord. They are using the comprehensive imaging protocol developed in this study to screen people for the study, and to track response to therapy in the participants.

Dr. Duncan has formed this collaboration with highly respected and productive investigators; many are from various schools at the University of Wisconsin, which will enable close working relationships among this team. This mix of basic and clinical scientists includes investigators outside the university who are using novel technologies to develop and track cells for use as therapies.

This multifaceted project, conducted by a talented team, is sure to help usher MS therapy into a new era of novel treatment strategies to protect against and repair the nervous system damage. This effort complements those of the three other repair teams. All four teams will come together on a regular basis to enhance collaboration and sharing of ideas and progress.

  Last updated August 30, 2005