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National Multiple Sclerosis Society to further a groundbreaking study that could lead to new therapies for MS.

Dr. Robert Lisak, M.D.

A Wayne State University School of Medicine neurologist has secured significant funding from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to further a groundbreaking study that could lead to new therapies for MS.

Robert Lisak, M.D., professor of neurology, will receive $710,500 for a three-year study titled “B Cell Secretory Factors and Neuronal and Oligodendroglial Toxicity.” The grant (RG 4929A2/3) begins Oct. 1.

“We are very excited, and thankful, for this grant,” Dr. Lisak said. “During a period when federal grant funding for medical research is becoming extremely difficult to secure, the National MS Society is stepping up to fund research that appears to hold hope for some great advances in treatment and possible cures.”

The research focuses on substances secreted by B cells taken from patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. An earlier study by Dr. Lisak, “Secretory products of multiple sclerosis B cells are cytotoxic to oligodendroglia in vitro,” was published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology in 2012, and was named one of the 10 best papers on multiple sclerosis research published that year in a review in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.

“We think that our approach to investigating a novel and unexpected mechanism of how B lymphocytes might contribute to the development of damage to the cerebral cortex in different stages of multiple sclerosis is important and could lead to more focused forms of treatment,” Dr. Lisak said. “We are gratified to see that others are in agreement on the potential importance of this work.”

B cells, a subset of lymphocytes (a type of circulating white blood cell), mature to become plasma cells and produce immunoglobulins, the proteins that are antibodies. The B cells appear to have other functions, including helping to regulate other lymphocytes, particularly T cells, and helping to maintain normal immune function when healthy.

In patients with MS, the B cells appear to attack the brain and spinal cord, possibly because there are substances produced in the nervous system and the meninges – the covering of the brain and spinal cord – that attract them. Once within the meninges or central nervous system, Dr. Lisak said, the activated B cells secrete one or more substances that do not seem to be immunoglobulins, but that damage neurons, the primary cells responsible for normal brain function.

The B cells appear to be more active in patients with MS, which may explain why they produce these toxic substances and, partially, why they are attracted to the meninges and the nervous system.

The researchers took B cells from the blood of four healthy individuals and seven patients with relapsing-remitting MS. They grew the cells in a medium, removed the cells from the culture and collected the material produced. After adding the material produced by the B cells to neuronal cells from rats, the scientists found significantly more neurons died when compared to material produced by the B cells from the healthy control group. Previously, the team found that the MS B cells produced substances toxic to oligodendrocytes, the brain cells that produce a protective substance called myelin.

Dr. Lisak and collaborators, including Joyce Benjamins, Ph.D., professor of neurology, and Dr. Amit Bar-Or, M.D., of the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University, are now working to identify the toxic factor or factors produced by B cells responsible for killing neurons and oligodendrocytes. Identification of the substance could lead to new therapeutic methods that could switch off the neuron- and oligodendrocyte-killing capabilities of B cells, which, in turn, would help protect neurons and myelin from attacks leading to neurodegeneration in MS patients.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by PROGNOSIS
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length
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