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Multiple Sclerosis Research

Myelin repair is the only current research area that has the potential to both restore lost function and halt the progress of multiple sclerosis. The Myelin Repair Foundation is the only non-profit medical research foundation solely focused on identifying myelin repair drug targets that will lead to treatments for multiple sclerosis.

To find out what makes Myelin Repair Foundation different, watch Making Connections for a Cure.

Since 2004, the Myelin Repair Foundation has made extraordinary progress toward effective multiple sclerosis treatments based on myelin repair:

  • The Myelin Repair Foundation collaborative scientific team has identified over 150 novel myelin repair therapeutic targets and 24 research tools that may be used in all neurological research.
  • In 2008, the Myelin Repair Foundation was awarded its first patent. Currently, the MRF has been a recipient of 9 total patents in the MRF patent porfolio, with many patent applications pending.

The Myelin Repair Foundation is committed to a licensing or partnership agreement with a commercial drug development company by mid-2009, only five years after the organization began funding research.

  • Read our latest research results here.
  • Learn more about how the Myelin Repair Foundation is accelerating the rate of discovery for myelin repair treatments.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic unpredictable neurological disease affecting 2.5 million people worldwide. Multiple sclerosis can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, stiffness, bladder problems and blindness.

Though most people with multiple sclerosis are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, the unpredictable physical and emotional effects are life long. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary greatly from person to person.

Because of the complexity of the disease, the cause and pathology of multiple sclerosis are still not known. As a result, scientists cannot predict when a cure for multiple sclerosis will be available. In fact, to date, no cure has been found for any neurological disease.

The role of myelin in multiple sclerosis symptoms

Multiple sclerosis symptoms result from both the inflammation and breakdown of myelin, the fatty protective coating surrounding nerve fibers of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Myelin is often compared to the insulating material around an electrical wire.

In multiple sclerosis, myelin is destroyed and myelin repair is prevented by the formation of scars of hardened “sclerotic” tissue. These are called plaques, and they can appear in multiple places within the brain and spinal cord, hence the name multiple sclerosis.

Loss of myelin interferes with the transmission of nerve signals and triggers the wide ranging symptoms of multiple sclerosis described above. The loss of myelin is referred to as demyelination. Myelin loss has also been linked to a number of other neurological diseases including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.

Myelin rich “white matter,” constitutes nearly one-half of the human brain.

History of multiple sclerosis research

Considered a neurological curiosity in the mid-19th century, by the turn of the 20th century, multiple sclerosis was recognized as one of the most common causes of admission to neurology hospital wards. A century later, multiple sclerosis became the most common serious neurological disease in young adults living in temperate climates.

In the 1950s, however, as treatments for other neurological diseases were developed, they were applied to multiple sclerosis, creating for the first time the notion that treatments and even potentially cures were possible [1].

While early contemporary multiple sclerosis researchers believed multiple sclerosis to be an infectious disease, the more current view is that multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease linked in some way to certain genes. Regardless of the cause or pathology of the disease, however, what is common to all forms of multiple sclerosis is the damage to myelin and the body’s inability to repair that damage.

Until 2001, there was no biological evidence that myelin could be repaired. It was then that Yale University professor Jeffrey D. Kocsis successfully used frozen human cells to restore nerve conduction in mice with multiple sclerosis. The door to investigations into myelin repair was then wide open. It now appears that in the early stages of the disease, spontaneous myelin repair does take place but that eventually the disease overwhelms the body’s capacity for repair resulting in the formation of chronic lesions that can result in permanent disability.

Today there remains a heavy emphasis on identifying therapeutic targets focused on reducing the body’s immune system’s inflammatory response. And while the efficacy of those treatments for many multiple sclerosis patients is uncertain, treating the patient’s immune system in this way has in fact appeared to reduce the effect of the disease in some patients.

However, myelin repair is the only current research area that has the potential to repair the nerve damage and essentially halt the progress of multiple sclerosis. Because of this, the Myelin Repair Foundation has made identifying myelin repair drug targets that will lead to treatments for multiple sclerosis its sole focus – and has made great inroads as a result.

[1] Multiple Sclerosis: The History of the Disease by T. Jock Murray, O.C., M.D.

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