News Release

February 17, 2008

Contact: Christopher DeFrancesco, 860-679-3914

Research Reveals Therapeutic Targets for MS

UConn, Stanford Collaboration Published in Nature

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Researchers from the University of Connecticut Health Center and the Stanford University School of Medicine have identified therapeutic targets associated with multiple sclerosis.

It’s one of the first studies where human disease tissue proteins are carefully analyzed to come up with important molecules in the progression of MS, the scientists say. Their research appears in the journal Nature.

The Stanford researchers obtained tissue samples of brain lesions from deceased MS patients and sent them to the UConn Health Center for UConn’s Center for Vascular Biology for proteomic analysis, proteomic analysis, a high-tech process of studying proteins. The result was the identification of more than 2,500 proteins, the largest catalog of MS brain lesions to date.

“Their in-depth knowledge and keen insights in disease pathogenesis enabled the Stanford scientists to select important molecules from the list of identified proteins we were able to catalog,” says David Han, Ph.D., director of UConn’s Proteomics and Biological Mass Spectrometry Core.

The Stanford researchers identified two specific proteins having to do with blood coagulation as potential therapeutic targets. Using drugs that block either of those proteins on mice with MS symptoms, they notice improvement of the severity of the disease.

“David Han's team opened a gold mine for identification of new targets in MS,” says Stanford Immunology Program Chair Lawrence Steinman, M.D. “Proteomics is one of the most important technological tools for hunting proteins in the brains of multiple sclerosis patients. We combined this tool provided by the expert team at UConn with our own skills in understanding the immunology of inflammation.”

Once possible therapeutic targets are identified, clinical trials are needed to prove them in humans, Han says. “This is a good case of collaboration with another institution, where cutting-edge proteomic methods can be used to identify proteins that are important for human diseases. These methods may one day help accelerate the whole drug discovery process.”

The UConn Proteomics and Biological Mass Spectrometry Core has been developing and optimizing tissue-based proteomic methods to help identify human disease markers since 2000. Last year its scientists published studies on the use of proteomic analysis in the research of prostate cancer, leukemia and human heart disease cells.

Note: The abstract of the Nature paper is available on their website or through with the digital object identifier (DOI) 10.1038/nature06559. The full text is only available to subscribers.

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