Dr. Giovannoni's team is investigating the effects of numerous drugs that have been found protective of the nervous system. The team is testing these neuroprotective drugs, as individual compounds or in combinations, in animal models of progressive MS-like disease. They also are using these models to develop new ways of measuring whether neuroprotection has been achieved, for use in clinical trials in people with progressive MS.
"There is currently no effective therapy for the progressive stages of MS," says Dr. Giovannoni. "We are addressing this void with a project that is a well-balanced mix of innovative basic science research and practical clinical research."
The body has some nerve tissue repair capabilities, but these eventually fail in MS—possibly because the body's store of immature myelin-making cells is depleted in MS, or because there is a lack of certain proteins called "growth factors" that stimulate tissue repair. Dr. Giovannoni and colleagues are exploring both possibilities by transplanting immature cells into animals with MS-like disease, along with a specific "carrier" molecule that has been engineered to release growth factors at sites of damage.
In a crucial phase of this study, Dr. Giovannoni and colleagues are seeking to accurately quantify and monitor alterations in both myelin and nerve fibers that occur in a model of optic neuritis, an eye disorder that is often the first symptom of MS. In this model, inflammation of the optic nerve is a simpler representation of the more complex and dispersed damage that occurs in MS. The team is using technology that can identify thousands of proteins at once to examine this model. These studies may help them to develop markers of myelin or nerve fiber damage that could then be applied to monitoring nervous system tissues in MS.
Dr. Giovannoni leads a group of investigators that spans basic to clinical science. Many co-investigators have long-term records of commitment to MS research, and have been involved with bringing interventions from the laboratory to the clinic.
This outstanding group can advance a new understanding of what causes damage in MS, and can also bring to the fore new, noninvasive technologies to use in MS diagnosis and treatment. 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 March 16, 2006|