University of Edinburgh researchers Scott Webster (left) and Anna Williams (right)

University of Edinburgh researchers Scott Webster (left) and Anna Williams (right)

A collaboration among University of Edinburgh scientists and biotech company Genzyme will focus on identifying therapeutic candidates capable of promoting remyelination and reducing neurodegeneration, mostly in relation to Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

According to a report from the Edinburgh Bioquarter, researchers from the University of Edinburgh have discovered a physiologically occurring molecule that prevents the cells needed to help repair damaged myelin from reaching the area of damage, which limits remyelination.

By working with Genzyme, co-investigators Dr Anna Williams of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Dr Scott Webster hope to identify inhibitors of this molecule (or its receptor) to prevent this block and encourage the cells capable of repairing myelin into the area of damage.

“If successful, this will be a step-change in MS treatment as current treatments are unable to repair the damaged neurons that cause the symptoms of MS,” Williams says.

“Ultimately, this could reduce neurodegeneration in MS and the accumulation of disability in patients. This treatment could also be used in other diseases where myelin is damaged, such as spinal cord injury.”

Dr. Johanne Kaplan, vice president of neuroimmunology research at Genzyme, stated: “We are very much looking forward to a productive collaboration with Drs Williams and Webster based on our combined expertise in remyelination and drug discovery and development. Remyelination-promoting therapies remain an unmet need and would be of great benefit to MS patients.”

[Source: Edinburgh Bioquarter]