On Monday evening, Professor Robin Franklin (one of the top MS researchers in the UK) gave a presentation on the future of MS research. I didn't attend, but an attendee posted this summary on the UK MS Society website. Thought it may be of interest.
The Future of MS (MSS talk 12 May 2008)
This was an excellent talk last night by Professor Robin Franklin from the Cambridge Myelin Repair Project whose team works very closely with the team led by Professor Charles ffrench-Constant at the Edinburgh centre funded by Harry Potter.
Myelin's the stuff that clings to our nerves to protect them, but gets destroyed in MS.
In Relapsing Remitting MS, the myelin sheath can grow back with the help of new oligodendrocyte cells that grow from stem cells. But in Secondary and Primary Progressive MS, the damage goes a bit further and the nerve fibre itself is destroyed, which the stem cells don't seem to be able to cope with.
On the subject of stem cells (also known as precursor cells), one fascinating fact from Professor Franklin's talk is that stem cells injected into the bloodstream of PwMS don't appear to make any difference to myelin repair. But they do appear to have some benefit in reducing inflammation and thus reducing the amount of damage being caused (which is what corticosteroids do for some people).
Another fascinating fact was that (embryonic) stem cells DO have a role in MS research, because they can be used to test whether therapies are likely to be effective in humans.
Professor Franklin can see achievements coming over the next few years in research, which is likely to continue concentrating on:
* drugs that protect axons (nerve fibres)
* drugs that promote remyelination (to protect the nerve fibres)
* better prediction of how an individual will repair damage
* better ways of imaging repair
* more effective treatment of progressive aspects of the disease
But it's certainly good to know that so many clever people are dedicating their lives to helping us and, more to the point, future generations. If you get a chance to hear Professor Franklin speak, I'd recommend taking it.