2007 Recipients

2007 Du Pré Grant Recipients

In 2007, eight researchers were awarded grants by MSIF enabling them to travel to work on MS projects in Australia, Austria, the USA and the UK.

Stephan Bramow, Denmark

Stephan visited the Department of Immunopathology at the Center of Brain Research in Vienna, Austria to work on a collaborative project on inflammation and remyelination in progressive MS with the Neuropathology Laboratory at the Danish Research Centre, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark. He was supervised in the host institution by Prof. Hans Lassmann and Dr. Peter Patrikios. On three separate visits, Stephan learned to identify and stage MS lesions and remyelination and special immunohistochemical staining procedures that he later used in his own laboratory on the Copenhagen collection of CNS tissue from autopsied MS patients with progressive disease. Lesions from patients that he mapped/categorized were enrolled in an ongoing study on the relation between inflammation and neurodegeneration in progressive MS. He also screened a library of whole brain sections and found cases that could be enrolled in the project on the relation between inflammation/active demyelination and disease subtype (PPMS vs SPMS) or remyelination. Finally, results from the original Copenhagen collection and the whole brain sections from Vienna were reviewed and confirmed by Prof. Lassmann. His data was presented at the AAN in Chicaco 2008 and two manuscripts are in preparation.

Overall, inflammatory demyelination emerges as a hallmark of disease progression emphasising the importance of the development of effective immunosuppression for progressive MS patients.

Carina Ferrari, Argentina

Carina used her £4,000 grant to travel from the Instituto Leloir at the University of Buenos Aires to the Neurosciences Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in the UK. In Prof Robin Franklin’s laboratory, she investigated the heterogeneity of response of an adult CNS stem/precursor population (oligodendrocyte precursor cells or OPCs) in different experimental models of toxin-induced CNS demyelination in rats and mice. The results of this ongoing project will shed light on the different ways in which this important population of adult CNS stem/precursor cells respond to injury and undergo the changes required of myelin regeneration (remyelination). This information will help in broader programmes of work aimed at identifying therapeutic targets to enhance the endogenous remyelination process in demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

This grant has given me the invaluable opportunity to work with one of the leading international scientists in the remyelination field. I have benefited enormously from the opportunity to meet and work with all the members of his lab and I have learnt much from this experience. This fellowship has also allowed me to work in the environment of the University of Cambridge, attending seminars, lectures and scientific meetings – all of which has enriched my scientific experience.

Nilufer Kale, Turkey

Nilufer’s £4000 grant enabled her to travel from the Okmeydani Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul where she was supervised by Prof. Osman Tanik to the Mayo Clinic in the USA where she worked under Prof. Claudia Lucchinetti to complete her project on remyelination in chronic MS autopsies examining the complex relationships between inflammation, demyelination and remyelination. She also had the opportunity to attend classes and receive training at the Mayo Graduate School, in Clinical Epidemiology, Regulatory Issues in Clinical Research, Statistics in Clinical Research and Basic Neuroscience.

All these experiences have helped me to learn first-hand the complex interplay of clinical practice with clinical and translational neuroscience research and better understand the pathophysiology of Multiple Sclerosis … and provided me with the necessary expertise and tools to become an independent MS investigator.

Maria Katsara, Greece

Maria was studying for a PhD at the University of Patras, Greece, and used her £4000 grant to extend her visit to the Immunology and Vaccine Laboratory, Austin Research Institute, Burnet Institute in Australia by a further 6 months. Under Prof. Vasso Apostolopoulos, she worked on immunotherapy of MS using synthetic peptide analogues (cyclic and linear) of myelin epitopes synthesized by her colleagues in the Department of Chemistry, University of Patras, under the supervision of Professor John Matsoukas (co-supervisor).

During her stay, Maria assessed the immunological profile of MBP and PLP analogues and tested these peptide analogues for their ability to suppress EAE (an animal model for MS) both in in vivo and in vitro antagonism experiments. The results so far, are striking and have led to submission of two provisional patents, 4 research papers and one book chapter. A further 5 research papers are in preparation. Overall, the linear [Y91]MBP83-99 peptide conjugated to an appropriate carrier (reduced mannan) showed the best cytokine and antibody profile and could antagonise T cell responses in vitro, thus, giving promise for the immunotherapy of MS, which needs to be pursued for further testing in human studies.

The Du Pré Grant was very useful for my MS research… I was able to finish all my current experiments for my PhD award and also generate enough preclinical data which will form the basis of a clinical trial in MS patients.

Ya ou Liu, China

The £4000 grant allowed Ya ou Liu to travel from the Department of Radiology at Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University in Beijing to the Howard Florey Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia, where he investigated the development of a coordinated approach to the assessment of axonal injury as a future platform for the assessment of axonal protective therapies in MS. This work was done under the supervision of Prof. Gary Egan and Prof. Trevor Kilpatrick. Ya ou was responsible for the MRI component of two projects which involved (1) testing the putative axonal and neuro-protective agent anti-LINGO in animal models of MS and (2) MRI longitudinal assessment of experimental therapies in MS (Vitamin D vs Placebo Phase 2 study). He was also involved in the pathologic analysis of the Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE) and Cuprizone animal model.

During the visit, I have learned research techniques and methods, as well as integrated with the mature MS research community in Australia. This relationship has initiated a collaborative MS project between our hospital in Beijing and the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne.

Jennifer Somerfield, New Zealand

The £4000 grant allowed Jennifer to travel from Auckland Hospital, New Zealand, where she was supervised by Dr. Ernest Willoughby to Cambridge University, UK where she spent two months in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences's Therapeutic Immunology Group, headed by Dr Alasdair Coles and Prof Alastair Compston. She was involved in both phase 2 and 3 trials of Campath-1H versus Rebif for the treatment of early relapsing remitting multiples sclerosis. She also investigated techniques to induce tolerance to therapeutic monocolonal antibodies (SM3 trial).

The two months I spent in Cambridge were a very valuable experience and will form part of the foundation for a planned career in clinical and academic neurology with a special interest in multiple sclerosis... The experience and skills I have learnt have been brought back to New Zealand and will be used in future MS research projects.

Ingrid van der Mei, The Netherlands

Ingrid used her £3000 grant to study gene-environment interactions in MS using three known risk factors of MS: smoking, Epstein-Barr virus antibody levels and the HLA-DR15 gene region. She travelled from the Menzies Research Institute in Australia where she was supervised by Prof Simon Foote to the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, USA where she worked with Prof Alberto Ascherio for 2 months.

Overall, it was a very enriching experience. The next stage for me is to contact a number of international groups and find out whether there are any other epidemiological studies in the set-up phase. We could then discuss how to increase the opportunities of pooling data in the future.

Janek Vilisaar, Estonia

Using his £3600 grant, Janek, a postgraduate student in medicine at the Queen's Medical Centre, University of Nottingham in the UK, visited the Department of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine in the USA where he investigated the effects of IL-17 on human NT2 neurons under the supervision of Dr Dennis Kolson. He used cultures of human NT2 neurons to measure the effects on neuronal gene expression with real-time PCR. The genes studied included substance P (SP), its NK1 receptor (NK1R), platelet activating factor receptor (PAFR), as well as IL-17 receptor (IL-17R) and IL-17 itself. The project is still continuing and enabled the set-up of a collaboration between 3 laboratories.

The project will help to open up new potentials in the field of MS and hopefully applications for treatment. I would once again like to thank MSIF for this great opportunity.