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Collaborative MS Research Center Awards > Stiles Team

Collaborative MS Research Center Award
$825,000; 4/1/03-3/31/08
Funded in full by the NMSS New York City Chapter

Principal Investigator
Charles D. Stiles, PhD Charles D. Stiles, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston


Read about the recent progress of Dr. Stiles and colleagues.


David Rowitch, MD, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston

Cedric S. Raine, PhD
Celia F. Brosnan, PhD
Gareth R. John, DVM, PhD
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY

Joining forces to develop strategies for tissue repair and identify new therapeutic targets in MS.

Few scientific fields are changing as quickly as the landscape of tissue repair. Research has demonstrated that our bodies contain a virtually limitless source of replacement cells, which may be exploited if the right signals can be found to stimulate their proper transformation and growth into viable new tissue. This core information has been key in the relatively new area of central nervous system repair related to MS.

Oligodendrocytes, the cells that make the nerve-insulating myelin that is damaged in MS, are known to derive from immature "progenitor cells." Recently identified molecules involved in oligodendrocyte development may be capable of stimulating progenitors to repair myelin damage in people with MS. Many researchers believe that a key to preventing nerve fiber damage in MS is to protect or repair the nerves' myelin coating.

Drs. Charles D. Stiles and David Rowitch (a Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholar of the National MS Society) of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston were investigating the foundation of brain cancer when they joined efforts to identify "Olig" genes, which instruct immature cells to become myelin-making oligodendrocytes. They showed that these genes are tremendously important in the early development of cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Although these scientists are experts in molecular genetics and brain development, they are relatively new to the field of MS. Now a new National MS Society Collaborative MS Research Center Award is allowing these researchers to join forces with the long-standing, expert MS research team at Albert Einstein College of Medicine: Dr. Cedric S. Raine, winner of the Society's John Dystel Prize for MS Research, who has published extensively on tissue damage in MS; Dr. Celia F. Brosnan, a world renowned neuroimmunologist; and Dr. Gareth John, who recently reported findings on another gene that influences oligodendrocyte development. The Einstein group has been supported for its MS research by the National MS Society for many years.

Drs. Stiles and Rowitch have generated numerous molecular tools for studying Olig gene function, such as antibodies that react to Olig proteins, mouse models wherein Olig function is disrupted, and "vectors," or vehicles to transport Olig genes into experimental models. Thanks to this unique collaboration, they are providing these tools to the Einstein team so that they can study the presence of Olig genes—and their ability to stimulate myelin repair—in tissues from people with MS and rodent models of MS-like disease.

At the same time, the collaborators are seeking to identify potential therapeutic targets for MS. Using the latest microarray technology—which can analyze tens of thousands of genes at once, using a small chip—the Dana-Farber team is examining human tissue samples to determine the genes targeted by Olig genes during myelin repair. These might point up molecular targets for new MS treatment approaches that would stimulate tissue repair.

This new Collaborative MS Research Center Award brings together two top-notch teams that are focusing their talents and resources on the problem of tissue repair in multiple sclerosis.

  Last updated May 9, 2006