Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. When the myelin is damaged, the nerve impulses are not transmitted as quickly or efficiently, resulting in symptoms such as numbness in the limbs, fatigue, dizziness, paralysis and/or loss of vision.
Symptoms of MS will often improve and relapse with time and vary from one person to another. In progressive forms of multiple sclerosis, they gradually worsen.
MS affects approximately 400,000 Americans (1 in 1,000) but is much more common in the Northwest where approximately 12,000 (2 in 1,000) people have MS. Some likely factors that contribute to this may be vitamin D deficiency, genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. Other factors are still unknown. Additionally, women are twice as likely as men to be affected by MS.
While BRI is committed to eliminating this autoimmune disease, currently there is no cure for MS. On the path to a discovery for a cure, BRI scientists are having success in finding better diagnostics, treatments and therapies for MS. Research at BRI to fight MS includes:
BRI's clinical trials in MS test drugs that selectively modulate the immune system and may be more effective in reducing symptoms. BRI, in partnership with Virginia Mason clinicians, has extensive experience in local and national clinical trials including studies with the most recent and dramatically efficacious immunotherapies.
Scientists work to better understand the nature of MS disease initiation and progression to better target therapy. BRI researchers have recently discovered that proteins in a certain signaling pathway may be leveraged as novel biomarkers of MS to gauge disease activity and as a target for new therapies. This research was done through a biorepository of patients with MS providing blood samples and medical histories.
BRI conducts laboratory research to understand the basic mechanisms leading to the development of multiple sclerosis and ways to target them. BRI researchers and colleagues discovered a subset of immune system cells which are believed to be potent inducers of MS and other autoimmune diseases. They are studying these cells to determine how to inhibit their harmful function.