National MS Society awards nearly $220,000 in grants to Mayo Clinic for pilot research project
Contact: Emily Wilson
MINNEAPOLIS — The National Multiple Sclerosis Society awarded a postdoctoral fellowship grant and pilot research project grant, totaling nearly $220,000 to the Department of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The grant supports a study analyzing variations of a gene that may be involved in the development of a disease similar to MS.
The grants awarded will help fund the pilot research study “Genetic analysis of neuromyelitis optica autoantigen,” which seeks to analyze variations of a gene that may be involved in the development of neuromyelitis optica — a disease also known as Devic’s disease that is similar to MS.
Researchers at Mayo Clinic have discovered that most patients with neuromyelitis optica have immune antibodies in the blood that target a protein in the nervous system called aquaporin-4. Study investigators Drs. Brian Weinshenker and Marcelo Matiello, along with other Mayo colleagues, are studying the gene that encodes this protein. The team plans to find out whether and how mutations in the DNA can cause the production of antibodies what will lead to destruction of the myelin — the nerve-insulating casing that is also targeted in MS.
This research may ultimately lead to a specific therapy that targets the actual immune response to aquaporin-4, and may provide insights into treating MS as well.