This week the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research team at University of Oxford was awarded the prestigious MS Research Project of the Year award. The award was announced at the 2012 MS Society awards ceremony in “recognition of world class research projects, based in the UK, working hard to beat MS”.

The research led by Professor Lars Fugger in collaboration with Dr Matt Craner identified a target, the acid sensing ion channel (ASIC), which when blocked by the drug amiloride prevented nerves and myelin from being damaged in laboratory models of MS. This early stage research published in Brain in 2011 extended the initial observations of a role of targeting ASIC as a neuroprotective therapy in MS (Nature Medicine, 2007). The combined evidence of these studies demonstrating a protective benefit of amiloride offers the potential to rapidly translate to patients with MS and through protecting nerve and myelin cells it is hoped this could lead to a treatment that halts disability progression.

Professor Lars Fugger’s approach of identifying novel pathways which may contribute to neuro-axonal injury, and to target them with drugs that are already in clinical practice and have a well-identified safety profile, forms a research platform which enables “fast-track neuroprotective therapies” to be brought into play within the therapeutic arena in MS. As part of a University of Oxford translational MS research programme these findings have formed the basis of a phase II clinical trial of amiloride led by Dr Matt Craner, which is being funded by the MS Society and due to start soon.

Link to papers:
http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v13/n12/full/nm1668.html
http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/134/2/571.long
Link to MS Society:
http://www.mssociety.org.uk/ms-events/ms-society-awards/winners#research