Image shows Dr Jeremy Chataway from the UCL Institute of Neurology

Holding our nerve - neuroprotection

Professor Jeremy Chataway, from University College London, tells us about the work he’s doing to protect nerve cells from damage in MS

To stop MS, we need to protect nerves

When we talk about ‘neuroprotection’, we're talking about ways of protecting the brain from damage, by keeping nerve cells happy and healthy.

We used to think that nerve cells were only injured in MS when their protective myelin coating was attacked by the immune system. But we now know that nerve damage still happens even when the immune attacks have stopped.

We already have treatments that target the immune system in MS, and we're trying to find treatments to repair myelin. But to really stop MS, we also need to protect nerves from damage.

Neuroprotective treatments have the potential to help everyone with MS. But they'll probably benefit people with progressive MS the most, because neuroprotection is most important when the immune system isn’t the main problem.

Tackling energy, debris and transport

To protect nerves and keep them alive, we need to understand more about what makes them vulnerable to damage in the first place.

One way is to make sure that nerve cells can generate the energy they need to work properly. If nerves don’t have enough energy they die. In MS, the energy system in cells doesn’t work properly, so we need to work out what goes wrong and how to fix it.

The environment around nerves is important too. When myelin is damaged, debris can build up and cause inflammation. We need to clear up this debris so nerves have a safe environment and enough space for myelin repair.

In MS, the system that nerves use to transport important molecules to where they’re needed can go wrong. Finding out how to stop these traffic jams could also restore some function

Neuroprotection trials are underway

There are many different aspects of neuroprotection to work on, but we’re already having success in clinical trials.

The MS-STAT1 trial tested whether simvastatin, commonly used to lower cholesterol, could reduce the loss of nerve cells. We found that simvastatin was able to reduce brain shrinkage. This suggests it can protect nerves and has the potential to slow or stop disability progression.

We’re excited to now be running the definitive trial to confirm these encouraging results. The MS-STAT2 trial started recruiting last year and we're looking for over 1000 people with secondary progressive MS to take part. Over 600 people are already taking part - but we need more! Please visit the STAT2 website to find out more.

We won’t have the results for a few years, but if it’s successful, simvastatin could become the first neuroprotective treatment for MS.

Donate today to help stop MS

The next research breakthrough is in reach

Your donation will help stop MS.

  • Please enter an amount

    Our minimum donation is £2, please enter a different amount.

£30could process one blood sample, giving researchers crucial information about genes and the immune system.

£50could pay for an hour on a microscope, so scientists can study cells and tissue in greater detail and improve their understanding of the biology of MS.

£100could pay for half an hour of MRI use, so researchers can monitor the success of clinical trials and understand MS in more detail.

Every penny you give really does take us a step closer to stopping MS. Your donation will make a difference.

  • Please enter an amount

    Our minimum donation is £2, please enter a different amount.

£10a month could pay for lab equipment like microscope slides to study the building blocks of MS

£20a month could pay for lab equipment like petri dishes to grow bacteria important for studying genetics

£30a month could process a blood sample to help us understand what causes MS, so we can stop it in its tracks

Your regular donation means we can keep funding world class MS research with confidence. Together we will stop MS.

MS researcher at work in lab, using a pipette