Research focus

In response to a anonymous comment: “Maybe one solution is to rethink the other research that is being undertaken. In your team there are researchers looking at the impact of neutralising anti-bodies) and others (Prof Baker – who referred to himself as the mouse doctor at the research day) looking at EAE (which you have noted in your blog is not MS). If EBV and Vit D looking so promising then it might be a case of ditching some of the research that is unlikely to significantly impact beneficially on the lives of people with MS and focussing on the more promising stuff….”

“(1) Neutralizing antibodies (NABs): we are using NABs as an autoimmune model to test immune tolerance strategies. NABs to interferon-beta are not found in normal healthy subjects; their presence represents an autoimmune disease. If we can work-out how to get rid of these antibodies safely then this will have implications for many other autoimmune diseases, including MS. Although MS may be triggered by vD deficiency and EBV, the possibility remains that it is an autoimmune disease, with the need to target this process with safe strategies. The immune tolerance strategy we are testing in relation to NABs was developed by David Baker in the 1990’s using EAE; it is important for us to try and translate this. In fact we have an obligation to our generous funders to try and translate this strategy; it would be a great pity to give up on a promising lead at this stage.

(2) EAE: we are using our model at the moment mainly for testing drugs in progressive EAE and for symptomatic treatments. Having a progressive model of EAE is very valuable; several of the drugs that will go into clinical trial, including the STOP-MS trial, have come through our model. We also need the model to understand the delicate relationship between inflammation and progressive disease. The model is also being used for evaluating remyelination and neuro-restorative strategies. You may be interested to hear that we have invented a very exciting treatment for spasticity using this model. We now have funding from the Wellcome Trust to do a toxicology screen and hopefully get it into MS’ers in a phase 1 study withing 12 months. 

(3) vD and EBV: this is the main thrust of our research at present; we have both basic and applied clinical research projects at present. Please watch this space; we have ideas for both testing anti-EBV drugs as DMTs and as a potential MS preventative therapy in infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever. As for vD; this is a public health issue and we are part of the vD lobby that is trying to get public health officials to change the RDA. We are also collaborating with people doing clinical trials on vitamin D in MS. Unfortunately, the MRC and NIHR turned down the UK grant to do a vitamin D trial in CIS. You can help by lobbying for these studies to be done at a national level. 

In addition we are involved in several other MS-related research projects. One of the projects is a design project to improve the outpatient experience of MS’ers attending the Royal London Hospital. This may not seem important, but it is essential for us that MS’ers who come to see us leave with a sense that the consultation was worthwhile. I note that too many comments posted on this blog highlight the dissatisfaction MS’ers have with neurologists. 

Our group tries our best to have a holistic approach to MS research.”

CoI: multiple 

2 thoughts on “Research focus”

  1. I think the reason there are negative comments towards neurologists on this blog is because it is acting as an outlet for peoples' frustration. It is rare that PwMS can address neurologists directly in this way. I don't include myself in this group as I don't make negative comments, and right now I am simply making an observation.I sometimes wonder, though, whether there is an 'overview' of MS research, so that it is focused and effective, as it often seems (to an outsider) that it is rather disparate. Or maybe that reflects the complexity of the disease and the many different strands that are being followed up. I know that there are attempts to streamline and speed up the research. Again, I wonder how some topics are selected – are they a particular researcher's special interest? Presumably in order to get funding they must satisfy criteria which means that all research is contributing to building up the picture of what causes MS.Sorry to go anon – it is just the easiest way to use this facility. And thanks again, it is really useful.

  2. Re "I sometimes wonder, though, whether there is an 'overview' of MS research, so that it is focused and effective, as it often seems (to an outsider) that it is rather disparate.": there is well defined research strategy, well at least in my mind there is. My approach is to look at the unmet need and try and address the problem. It may seem like research is all over the place, but at the end of the day there some areas come in and out of vogue and depending on your interest you focus on them or not.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: