News Release

October 7, 2005

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Promising Research for Improving Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

Study Published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Scientists at the University of Connecticut Health Center and the Yale School of Medicine have collaborated on exciting, new research that may eventually improve the diagnosis and treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), a crippling disease that targets the brain and spinal cord and impacts nearly a half a million Americans. The findings are published in a recent edition of the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

“In MS, the immune system becomes ill and begins attacking your own body,” said Dr. Cecilia Marta, assistant professor in the department of neuroscience at the UConn Health Center. “It starts to destroy the protective coating around our nerve cells, called myelin. Without this coating, information via our nerve cells can not travel as fast, resulting in paralysis and impaired mobility,” explained Marta.

Identifying MS early on, before it seriously damages the body, is one of the major goals of researchers, and the UConn Health Center and Yale University team of scientists has taken an important step toward that goal.

Marta and Steven Pfeiffer, professor of neuroscience at the UConn Health Center, are studying mechanisms by which antibodies that react with a specific molecule on the surface of myelin-producing cells, known as MOG, contribute to the disease. They teamed up with Nancy Ruddle, professor of epidemiology and public health at Yale University, an expert in the application of mouse models, to learn more about how these antibodies may cause multiple sclerosis.

The team was able to differentiate between certain antibodies, some that contribute to the disease and others that do not. “Our findings helped us develop a series of tests that can contribute to a patient’s early diagnosis,” said Marta. “It brings us a step closer to predicting a patient’s course of the disease, including just how aggressive it may be.”

Pfeiffer, who has been studying multiple sclerosis since 1970, says their research is a prime example of how basic science can provide the building blocks necessary for translational research and demonstrates the critical role that collaboration with excellent colleagues plays in biomedical science. “Even though we’re still in the early stages, by identifying the molecular mechanism by which these antibodies are causing damage, we move closer to developing novel therapies to treat this devastating disease in the future,” added Pfeiffer.

Other researchers involved with the study are Alfred Oliver and Rebecca Sweet, both of Yale University.

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