Glasgow University researchers are in the process of testing whether a blood-thinning drug originally developed to help stroke patients has the potential to aid with the repair process of damaged nerve cells in patients with MS (multiple sclerosis).
The MS society will donate £150,000 towards the research project led at Glasgow University over two years.
The research will be led by Professor Susan Barnett from the University of Glasgow's Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation in collaboration with Professor Jerry Turnbull of the University of Liverpool. Professor Barnett researches neurodegenerative diseases and focuses primarily on methods of repairing the central nervous system.
Past research suggests that the drug chosen for the study, low sulphated heparin, can encourage the growth of protective myelin in nerves. So far, this has only occurred in laboratory tests in a dish and not in any living organisms. Lead researcher Professor Barnett aims to investigate whether it can help to repair myelin in living nerve cells in MS-like conditions by using animal models.
Heparin has been used in medicine for many centuries, best known as the substance that leeches dispense when feeding on other animals in order to stop the blood in the wound from clotting. Leeches have also been used in medical blood drawing. If the type of heparin chosen for the study proves to be effective, the drug may pass clinical trials much quicker than other drugs.
Dr Sorrel Bickley, Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society expressed that the society is very proud to be funding this project. Since there are so many people in the UK living with MS, they hope that the drug will be developed quickly and efficiently.
MS is a neurodegenerative disease that occurs when the protective coating on nerves is damaged or destroyed as a result of an autoimmune response to the coating. The nerve damage disrupts signals from the brain to the body through the spinal cord. So far the damage cannot be reversed, but the study intends to investigate whether a specially modified blood-thinning drug may be able to reduce it.
The symptoms of MS are unpredictable and can worsen over time or occur repeatedly. It is estimated that over 100,000 people in the UK live with MS.