MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair

About the project

Since 2005, the Cambridge Centre has carried out research that aims to rapidly translate laboratory discoveries into new treatments that repair damage to myelin. They have already dramatically increased our understanding of myelin repair, and, vitally, have shown that it is possible to increase myelin repair in humans with drug treatments.

Since it opened our Cambridge Centre has created a world-class research environment involving researchers from all around the UK – most notably at the MS Society Edinburgh Centre for MS Research.

Scientists at both centres worked together to show that a molecule called RXR-gamma could encourage the brain’s own stem cells to repair myelin in animal models of MS. This led to a phase 2 clinical trial at Cambridge testing a drug called bexarotene, which targets RXR-gamma. Bexarotene has severe side effects so will not be taken forward, but importantly the trial showed us that myelin repair in humans is possible.

In this new grant, Dr Karadottir, Professor Coles and their team of researchers will continue to investigate the fundamental biology of myelin repair. They will be looking at the impact of myelin repair on the health of nerve cells, as well as finding new ways to measure myelin repair using MRI in the clinic. They will also expand their investigations into effects of ageing on myelin repair.

How will it help people with MS?

We’ve made great progress in treating MS over the last 25 years. We now have a range of treatments for people with relapsing MS, and some emerging for progressive MS.

However, all current licensed treatments target the immune system to reduce relapses and prevent further damage to myelin. We don’t yet have any treatments that can repair the damage done to myelin.

Myelin repair treatments offer an exciting opportunity to help us achieve our goal to slow, stop or even reverse the progression of disability in MS. 

This new 5 year grant will improve our understanding of myelin repair and apply this knowledge to people with MS. Ultimately, we hope this programme of work will lead to new licensed drugs that can repair myelin in people with MS.

The difference you can make

Researchers at the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair are leading the way in developing treatments that promote myelin repair for people with MS. We are grateful to our supporters who have made this work possible.