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Queen University research bid to reverse symptoms of MS

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 22/07/2016

A major £2m research project spearheaded by experts at Queen's University Belfast has the
A major £2m research project spearheaded by experts at Queen's University Belfast has the "potential" to restore lost functions and improve the quality of life of people with MS, it has been claimed

A major £2m research project spearheaded by experts at Queen's University Belfast has the "potential" to restore lost functions and improve the quality of life of people with MS, it has been claimed.

MS attacks at random and many of the symptoms are invisible to others. Most people are diagnosed in their 20s or 30s and the condition means patient's nerve fibres are attacked by their own immune system.

The research programme aims to understand how myelin, the insulating layer that surrounds nerves in the central nervous system, can be repaired. The funding is made up of a prestigious Investigator Award of £1,673,610 from the Wellcome Trust and a grant of £467,333 from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

It makes it the biggest MS research study currently under way in Northern Ireland. The province has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with roughly 4,500 people living with the condition. It can get steadily worse, or remain unpredictable and is a complex condition which has many symptoms, including impaired vision and balance; dizziness, fatigue, bladder problems, stiffness and spasms.

It can also affect memory and thinking, and impact on emotions.

Speaking about the research, Dr Denise Fitzgerald from the Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen's University, said: "Through these very generous grants we are now able to pursue the holy grail of reversing the damage caused by MS.

"At the moment the treatments for patients limit the recurrence of relapses, but none currently reverse the damage already done. Our research aims to understand how the damage done to the myelin can be repaired, with a view to making an entirely new class of treatments for MS and other myelin disorders.

"If we are successful in our research goals, this could have huge potential to restore lost functions and improve the quality of life of people with MS."

Patricia Gordon, Director, MS Society Northern Ireland, said: "This is a hugely important and exciting project which illustrates the ambition of those involved in MS research. Research into myelin repair will be welcome news to the 100,000 people across the UK living with MS."

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