Delegates at the MS Frontiers conferences looking at posters

How progressive MS is being tackled in all 4 nations of the UK

Last week we brought together 200 of the UK’s leading MS researchers for MS Frontiers. Over 2 days, scientists and clinicians from all over the country shared ideas and presented their latest MS research.

The ultimate goal of all the researchers at MS Frontiers is to stop MS for everyone. And we heard about lots of new studies bringing us closer to that goal.

Here are some of the most exciting new findings from all 4 corners of the UK:

New ways to stop immune attacks from England

Dr Stefania de Trane, from Queen Mary University in London, is looking at whether a cancer drug called cladribine could be repurposed to help people with MS. She's particularly interested in the effect of cladribine on progressive and advanced MS.

Over 100 people with progressive MS as well as many with relapsing MS took part in Stefania's study. Her team found a third of the people with progressive MS taking cladribine showed no evidence of their MS progressing after 2 years.

This was only a small study and the team are now preparing for a larger trial on cladribine for advanced MS. We'll keep you updated on their progress.

A new understanding of myelin repair from Northern Ireland

Dr Yvonne Dombrowski from Queen’s University Belfast shared her research on inflammasomes. Inflammasomes are a type of protein that can sense when tissue is damaged and alert the immune system. They're linked to the destruction of tissue and to our body’s response to the damage. But until now we didn’t know what their role was in MS.

Yvonne showed that some of the chemicals produced by inflammasomes are really important to myelin repair. You can see them in areas of the brain where myelin has been destroyed and areas where myelin repair is taking place. When some of these chemicals are present, myelin repair is more efficient. When they aren’t there, the repair doesn’t work as well.

By better understanding what affects our natural ability to repair myelin, we'll be more able to design treatments that help it.

New paths to protect nerves from damage from Scotland

Dr Julia Edgar from the University of Glasgow discussed new findings that help us understand how nerve cells communicate with other cells in the brain.

Nerve cells get support from another type of brain cell – an oligodendrocyte. As well as producing myelin, oligodendrocytes help nerve cells to function properly. Julia wanted to know how the nerve cells signal to the oligodendrocytes when they need help.

She found that in mice, electrical activity from the nerve cell acts like a trigger for the oligodendrocyte to take action. Knowing how nerve cells are supported to stay healthy could help us find new targets for treatments.

New programmes to help people stay active from Wales

Dr Julie Latchem-Hastings, from Cardiff University, presented a new lifestyle and exercise programme for people with progressive MS. The programme, which we funded, is called LEAP-MS.

People with progressive MS who need assistance to get around or experience severe fatigue, sometimes need support to stay physically active. Julie and her team talked to people with progressive MS and their families about what type of physical activity they do, and how it helps their symptoms. They also asked about the barriers that stop them from doing physical activity.

The team used the findings to develop LEAP-MS. The programme includes face-to-face sessions with a physiotherapist and an online guide, so people with progressive MS can find the best way to stay active.

Coming together to stop MS

The work presented at MS Frontiers shows just how much progress is being made in all the different areas of MS research.

It was really inspiring to see the whole of the UK MS research community coming together to stop MS. And feel how much passion all our researchers have for making a difference to people with MS.