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New Process Speeds Multiple Sclerosis Treatment to Trial

Robert Miller (Case Western Reserve University)

Robert Miller (Case Western Reserve University)

The Myelin Repair Foundation in California says research it has sponsored has moved to clinical trial stage faster than expected due to a model that accelerates the research process. The phase 1 clinical trial, for which enrollment has begun, will test the efficacy of a treatment for multiple sclerosis that repairs myelin through a therapeutic pathway with mesenchymal stem cells.

Myelin is the fatty protective coating surrounding nerve fibers of the central nervous system, often called the “white matter” in the brain. With multiple sclerosis, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys myelin in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in interference with the transmission of nerve signals and triggering symptoms that include blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, stiffness, bladder problems, and blindness.

The clinical trial, conducted at the Cleveland Clinic, will be directed by Robert Miller (pictured right), a professor of neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University, also in Cleveland, who is also the university’s vice-president for research and technology management. Miller’s team has identified a clinical pathway through mesenchymal stem cell signals that not only protects myelin, but also encourages myelin repair. The foundation says current treatments focus on the suppression of the immune system to limit the damage to myelin, but do not try to repair the myelin damage.

Foundation president Scott Johnson says the project had originally planned to reach this stage in 2014, and attributes the faster performance to the group’s research process called Accelerated Research Collaboration. This process integrates findings from the foundation’s ongoing biology research program, which has resulted in some 100 potential myelin repair treatment targets and 24 research tools available for use in research on myelin repair, as well as more potential applications in neuroscience. So far, four U.S. patents have been awarded as a result of this research model.

From the biology program, the model branches into either validation of myelin repair targets through the use of contract research organizations, or the repositioning of existing targets in clinical development for other disorders. The Myelin Repair Foundation says some 40 targets are in the latter category.

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