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Home Clinical Clinical News Irish research driven by MS Ireland makes significant breakthrough

Irish research driven by MS Ireland makes significant breakthrough

New research conducted at NUI Galway may lead to the first available treatments for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS).

Driven by MS Ireland, the study, with collaborators at Queen’s University Belfast, shows that higher levels of the signalling pathway endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress were discovered in lesioned areas in the grey matter of the brain in those with secondary progressive MS. The research is one of only two projects in the world examining the role of ER stress in grey matter lesions in MS.

The team, led by Dr Una Fitzgerald, PhD, a neuroscientist from the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Science at NUI Galway, found that ER stress is expressed at raised levels in both white matter and grey matter demyelination, and hypothesised that molecules activated during ER stress cause the damage to the brain usually experienced by people with MS.

“In 85 per cent of cases, MS starts out as a relapsing–remitting form, with patients having symptoms followed by substantial or complete improvements,” said Dr Fitzgerald. “The periods of improvement are associated with the build up of myelin on the lesions again. However, over time, the lesions re-myelinate less, and people with MS can experience a gradual decline in neurological function.”  She added that if a link is proven between the ER signalling pathway and lesion development, researchers can focus on creating drugs to interfere with that pathway.

“Until now, MS research has mostly focused on how white matter lesions are formed because white matter lesions are the easiest to see. However, it is now believed that grey matter lesions have a key impact on patient disability as MS progresses. More and more scientists have realised that the occurance of grey matter lesions has been greatly underestimated.”   The study was supported by a research grant from MS Ireland, whose research programme offers Irish researchers the opportunity to contribute to the global research agenda through a dedicated research fund.

Applications are accepted annually and reviewed by the MS Ireland Research Committee and a number of leading researchers in their field before funding is awarded.  Speaking about the research, MS Ireland Committee Chairman Professor Michael Hutchinson, consultant neurologist in St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, said: “We are delighted to have funded such an important piece of research. Understanding the mechanisms of grey matter lesions and the demyelination process is essential to find ways to treat, prevent or one day cure MS. ”



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