Three young researchers supported by MSIF are available to answer your questions. You can read a summary of their areas of expertise below, and vote for the area that interests you the most, using the poll on the right side of this page.
Each of the three researchers was awarded one of MSIF’s McDonald Fellowships in 2014 or 2015. This award enables talented young MS researchers from emerging countries to work with leading researchers in MS.
Predicting disease progression using MRI
“Grouping patients into different MS subtypes (e.g. relapsing-remitting or progressive) is important when selecting appropriate treatments. Currently the decision is based on clinical evaluation, which is subjective and unreliable. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), on the other hand, provides an objective assessment of brain, but it is not clear whether we can use MRI to predict progression or group patients into subtypes.
My research, which is a collaboration between the Institute of Neurology and UCL Department of Computer Science, aims to study MRI in detail to describe MS progression. I will specifically look at brain tissue changes over time to develop an objective way to describe the stage of a person’s MS (known as staging system).
I will combine advanced image analysis and statistical models to explore brain tissue loss in each region to predict people who are at higher risk of disability later in their disease course. It will provide a unique way to look into each MS subtype based on a set of characteristics shown on MRI. By combining information from imaging, other biomarkers (such as spinal fluids) and clinical information we could identify people who are at risk of higher disability earlier and assign the correct treatment.
I’m from Iran, currently based in UCL Institute of Neurology in London and working under the supervision of Prof Olga Ciccarelli, Prof Alan Thompson, and Prof Daniel Alexander.”
Measuring cortex thickness changes in people with clinically isolated syndrome
Rumaiza Hussein Alyafeai
“For a long time, it was believed that the brain cortex (the outer layer of nerve tissue) is not affected in MS. However, recent research suggests that this is not the case.
People with MS often report symptoms such as cognitive issues, which are related to damage to the cortex. As a result, we decided to study the cortex of people with MS by measuring changes in its thickness. We are focusing on people in the very early stages of MS – those with CIS (clinically isolated syndrome), where only a single attack has occurred.
We are investigating whether people are affected from the beginning of their disease by looking for any thinning of their brain cortex. We will also look at these changes in different brain regions, to see if this is a period of disease which is free of any changes. We also aim to find a link between thinning of the brain cortex and symptoms that people with MS report.
This research is important to people with MS as well as to MS physicians, as it could provide a new way to understand early changes in the brain. Maybe in the future it could be used to predict if early intervention could prevent, stop or even cure the disease process.
I’m from Yemen, currently based at the Centre d’Esclerosi Mútiple de Catalunya (Cemcat) in Barcelona and working under the supervision of Prof Xavier Montalban.”
Preventing oxygen loss in nerve cells
“Neuroprotection (preventing damage to nerve cells) is an urgent need in MS, to stop inflammatory lesions from causing deterioration and loss of function of nerve cells (degeneration).
The lesions found in optic neuritis (an inflammation of the optic nerve causing blurred vision and pain that is sometimes associated with attacks in MS) are similar or identical to MS lesions, but are directly visible through the pupil. This offers an opportunity to study what might be happening in the brain through a more accessible system.
We plan to study two models of experimental optic neuritis (as substitutes of the MS lesion) to test therapies that aim to deal with the newly-discovered phenomenon of oxygen shortage in lesions that causes an energy deficit and degeneration.
Our study will examine whether preventing oxygen loss reduces degeneration. We will use a range of methods to examine energy production, oxygen levels, visual function and protection of the retina. If successful, this could result in a therapy that protects the brain from damage which is very important for people with MS.
I’m from Moldova, preparing to start working at the UCL Institute of Neurology in London, under the supervision of Prof Kenneth Smith.”