MS Research supports research aimed at advancing treatments and care for the benefit of the MS community. We have funded robust scientific research across a range of laboratory, clinical and medical settings. Read on for examples of studies that we assist.
THE ROOTS OF MS FATIGUE
A functional MRI (fMRI) study on MS Fatigue, carried out at the Clinical Research Imaging Centre at University of Bristol, has been published and shows a relationship between the basal ganglia and subjective and objective measures of fatigue. Co-authored by MS Research grant beneficiary Christelle Langley for her PhD; the results of the paper are exciting as they suggest that reduced functional connectivity within the basal ganglia plays a role in cognitive fatigue. This adds to the body of knowledge and could lead to a greater understanding of MS-related fatigue, which affects around 90% of people living with MS. The study, "Dysfunction of basal ganglia functional connectivity associated with subjective and cognitive fatigue in multiple sclerosis", is available to read on Frontiers Journal.
MS PROGRESSION IN THE SPINAL CORD
Some people with MS may develop more progressive stages of the condition, which has been shown to impact the spinal cord and is associated with mobility issues. This may be caused by, for example, long-standing inflammation, loss of nerve fibre insulation (or demyelination), and degeneration of nerve fibres themselves. The study from researchers Professor Gabriele De Luca and MD/PhD student Alex Waldman, with research assistant & incoming PhD student Aimee Avery, at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Oxford University, aims to assess these features of spinal cord damage to seek ways to reliably detect and treat MS progression ahead of diagnosis.
The laboratory study is looking at spinal cord samples which show signs of these progressive pathological features through histological (the study of cells and tissues) and antibody-based immunohistochemistry (the use of antibodies to check for antigens in a tissue sample). The researchers have generated detailed quantitative information about the above pathological features (e.g., inflammation, demyelination, and degeneration). This information will be used to select cases to study using advanced single-cell and spatial gene mapping techniques. This means the researchers can select relevant cases from the pathological criteria, to compare between varying levels of MS progression. This is called a pathologically informed approach, which allows researchers to study differences in MS progression across individuals and better understand differences in symptom presentation.
The study researchers hope to identify potential benchmark tests to identify the features of spinal cord damage caused by more progressive forms of MS, ahead of their onset to cast light onto the possible reasons behind disease progression. Ultimately, the researchers hope these can be used to clinically monitor the prediction and diagnosis of MS and/or be targeted for developing effective therapies. MS Research looks forward to receiving further news on this exciting study, of which we will keep our supporters informed.
Not everyone who has MS develops tremor but the minority that do can find everyday life very difficult. Simple things like keypad use, putting cards in slots and many other daily tasks can be extremely difficult. Many treatments have been tried but none are fully successful probably because MS tremor is a very complex movement disorder affecting upper limbs and making accurate movement very difficult.
MS Research participated in a major EU-funded programme looking to better understand tremor and its complexity by making measurements of normal movements and those affected by tremor. These studies have moved on to using new movement sensors similar to those used in CGI applications to gain a better understanding of the nature of tremor with a view to designing better treatments. Since then, studies have taken place in collaboration with Bristol UWE, University of the West of England, and a movement disorders specialist team.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been used successfully in Parkinson's disease and other causes of tremor, but results with MS are very variable. MS Research has been working towards a better understanding of the nature of MS tremor as this may help to understand which patients will benefit the most from DBS and to find other solutions.
Understanding MS Fatigue
2018 was the final year of a PhD programme on understanding fatigue in MS carried out at CRIC (Clinical Research and Imaging Centre) Bristol. Dr Jade Thai’s PhD research student’s three-year study into improving our understanding of how fatigue affects function using functional MRI Imaging (fMRI) of the brain was completed and she was awarded her PhD, which was jointly funded by MS Research and the University of Bristol. Research papers are currently being submitted for publication on this and other MS Research supported research projects.
Further studies on the evaluation of better treatment strategies for neuromuscular fatigue, mobility and balance are underway. A further fMRI study on understanding how people respond to information about new treatments was planned for 2019/2020. Updates on this to follow.
Core Stability in Wheelchair Users
A project to help positioning in wheelchair users with trunk instability explored ways of preventing the many unwanted consequences of being a regular wheelchair user. In 2018, a group of five Bristol University design engineering Master's degree students explored the use of new measurement systems for assessing the needs of wheelchair users. Alongside this, they evaluated new materials and, with staff from University of the West of England, using 3D printing techniques to aid design and test support systems that move from wheelchair to normal seating with the wheelchair user. This study was also supported by staff at the Bristol Enablement Centre who provide disability services in the South-West for people with MS who are wheelchair users. All students were awarded their Masters degrees.
We are always looking for new high quality projects. Get in touch with one of the MSRTE team to find out how we can help to fund your research.