Public Release: 

$15.6 million awarded for nervous system repair in multiple sclerosis

Part of $30 million National MS Society promise 2010 initiative for targeted research

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The largest awards ever made for research aimed at protecting and reversing neurological damage and restoring function in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are going to four teams in the U.S. and Europe, who will use $15.6 million from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to lay the groundwork for clinical trials over the next five years. These awards are part of the National MS Society's Promise 2010 Campaign, a nationwide effort to raise at least $30 million for targeted areas of research and patient care that hold great potential in the fight to end the devastating effects of MS but which have so far been under-explored.

The teams are based at Johns Hopkins University, University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Cambridge and University College London, with other collaborators in Canada, Europe and the U.S.

"We're excited that these international 'dream teams' of leading scientists and physicians have accepted our challenge to develop the tools needed for conducting clinical trials aimed at protecting against and repairing nervous tissue damage in MS," said John R. Richert, MD, Vice President of Research & Clinical Programs at the National MS Society. "This is a new chapter in MS research and should serve as a springboard for translating basic lab findings into important new treatments for people with MS."

MS involves a misdirected immune attack against myelin, the coating on nerve fibers that speeds nerve signals, and also destroys the underlying nerve fiber itself, causing symptoms like numbness, blindness, cognitive dysfunction and paralysis. Recent progress in controlling immune system attacks, coupled with rapid advances in the neurosciences, have made nervous tissue repair and protection emergent areas of MS research, prompting the National MS Society's unprecedented investment.

The repair teams are taking multifaceted approaches to protecting brain tissues and finding ways to rebuild the central nervous system. The teams will meet regularly to help foster synergy and collaboration.

"Collaboration is critical to achieving our goals with these projects. We know that sharing ideas and key findings will get us to the finish line that much faster," Dr. Richert continued.

"Dream teams" Leading the Way

Neurologist Dr. Peter A. Calabresi (Johns Hopkins University) and collaborators are searching for better ways to detect and quantify tissue injury in MS and testing agents that may protect the nervous system from further damage.

The international team headed by Professor Charles ffrench-Constant (University of Cambridge, UK) is focusing on restoring myelin by identifying and amplifying natural repair factors in the brain and by attempting transplantation of replacement cells.

Dr. Gavin Giovannoni (University College London, UK) and collaborators are attempting to turn cells into vehicles that will deliver repair molecules to sites of injury in the brain, and screening molecules for their protective properties as a prelude to clinical testing.

Professor Ian D. Duncan (University of Wisconsin Madison) is leading a multidisciplinary team to develop better imaging technologies such as PET and MRI to visualize myelin and nerve fiber damage, and to detect its repair. They are also exploring repair cell transplantation techniques.

Promise 2010: Giving people living with MS a future to look forward to rather than a past to look back upon

To encourage innovative research into highly promising areas and to improve MS medical care, the National MS Society launched the Promise 2010 Campaign. This nationwide effort is fueled by nearly 50 local Society chapters who have committed to raise at least $30 million to fund the four targeted initiatives.

In addition to the repair initiative, these include the establishment of Pediatric MS Care Centers to improve care and propel research into childhood MS; the MS Lesion Project, an international pathology study seeking to map and understand the meaning of MS damage seen in the brain in order to develop better ways of treating people with MS; and the Sonya Slifka Longitudinal MS Study, a nationwide database to examine the impact of MS on people's lives.


For more information about the Promise 2010 Initiatives, go to our Web site: and click on Research > About Research > Targeted Research (

Every hour in the United States, someone new receives that frightening diagnosis: multiple sclerosis. MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are giving hope to those affected by the disease. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with more than twice as many women as men contracting the disease. MS affects more than 400,000 people in the U.S., and 2.5 million worldwide.

The mission of the National MS Society is to end the devastating effects of MS. Through its home office and 50-state network of chapters, the Society funds more MS research, offers more services to people with MS, provides more professional education, and advances more MS advocacy efforts than any other MS organization in the world. This is why we're here. For more information, call 1-800-FIGHT MS or visit

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