How does multiple sclerosis start, and what can be done to prevent it?
Brigham neurologist Howard L. Weiner, MD, and immunologist Vijay Kuchroo, DVM, PhD, recently launched the Cause of Multiple Sclerosis Initiative to begin answering these essential research questions. It came to fruition because of the interest and generosity of the Water Cove Charitable Foundation, which contributed $900,000 to jump-start this project.
The foundation previously gave $5 million to the Brigham to enable Weiner and Kuchroo to start the Progressive MS Initiative.
Building on this investment, the foundation sees great promise in the researchers’ hypothesis that B cells are the main drivers of the neurodegenerative disease.
Through years of research, Weiner and his team discovered that antibody therapies that delete B cells help patients with the most common, relapsing form of disease. “Identifying the role of B cells in MS was a paradigm shift,” Weiner says. “But much is still unknown, including how B cells initiate the autoimmune reaction and how to selectively manipulate the cells.”
Adds Kuchroo, “With unique immunology data from my lab and unique microbiome data from Dr. Weiner’s lab, we have an edge in exploring these ideas. Determining how MS starts is a big deal, and we’re grateful to the Water Cove Charitable Foundation for empowering this research.”
Finding the root cause of MS, a chronic disease affecting 2.5 million people worldwide, would open doors for future research.
“Right now, we’re working to make a basic observation that will unlock the origins of MS,” Weiner says. “This would allow us to one day have a treatment that stops the disease from forming. These are long-term studies, and this important gift allows us to ask crucial questions we otherwise would not be able to ask.”