February has turned out to be a very busy month for the MS Society. Today we announced the launch of a collaborative study that will uncover important knowledge and bring out more effective treatments for MS. Collaborative studies, as the name implies, involve many researchers and institutions, both in Canada and abroad.
Collaboration across regions and scientific expertise is what propels science forward. Many things are possible alone, but with the help of others the possibilities in what you can accomplish in research are endless.
For this new collaborative study that the MS Society is funding along with its affiliated MS Scientific Research Foundation, three of the world’s most renowned MS experts are teaming up to investigate the role of the B cell in MS. The B cell is one of many white blood cells that comprise the body’s immune system. The primary function of the B cell is to make antibodies against foreign agents like viruses and bacteria. Once they are produced, the antibodies circulate in the body as a means of surveillance, looking to see if the foreign agent returns.
Emerging research suggests that B cells may have an important role in MS. More specifically, B cells may be contributing to tissue damage in the central nervous systems (brain and spinal cord) in people with MS. This new study led by Dr. Amit Bar-Or from McGill University (Montreal), Dr. Alexandre Prat from University of Montreal, and Dr. Jen Gommerman from University of Toronto will break down the exact mechanism by which B cells influence the course of MS.
Therapies designed to target B cells have already been very effective in improving health outcomes in people with MS, but these therapies are very risky and can lead to immune deficiency in the long term. Thus, this study will determine which types of B cells are most involved in MS, and this information will lead to therapies that will only go after the bad guys, leaving the rest of the immune system intact and ready to combat infection.
Drs. Bar-Or, Prat and Gommerman all bring a wealth of skills and experiences to the table. Dr. Bar-Or is a neurologist with lots of years of experience treating people with MS, and is a world-leader in immunology. Dr. Prat is also an MS neurologist who, in a short period of time, has had a very prolific career in biological research. Dr. Gommerman is an expert in animal research and B-cell biology. She will provide critical information about the conditions B cells need to survive and function.
This collaborative study will not only provide information about the cause of MS, but also help us to better understand progressive MS – a debilitating form of the disease that is currently without treatment.
You can learn more about the MS Society-supported study by visiting our website.