Sick Stem Cells Point to Better MS Drugs

The young and the useless. Oligodendrocyte progenitor cells like these never mature properly in patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.Doctors seeking a cure for an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis keep chasing a mirage: no matter how well a drug works in the lab, it never seems to help many patients in the clinic. But after closely examining stem cells from patients and their families, researchers think they know why the drugs coming out of labs are duds. Neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Crocker, associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at UConn Health, and colleagues offer an explanation in the Feb. 1 issue of Experimental Neurology.

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) suffer from vision loss, pain, and paralysis that grows worse over time. The symptoms are from stray electrical signals in the nervous system. Our nerves operate like electrical wires, and just like wires, they need insulation around them. The insulation around our nerves is a substance called myelin, made by other cells in the brain called oligodendrocytes. For reasons that are not yet understood, the oligodendrocytes in people with multiple sclerosis don’t reliably repair the myelin. So people with MS gradually lose myelin, and their nerves start to short out like frayed wires, and eventually these neurons die.

Most kinds of MS have a pattern of illness and then remission: symptoms flare up, then go away, then flare up again. There are effective drugs that help patients extend the periods of remission, and someone diagnosed with MS in his or her 20s may live comfortably for decades. But primary progressive MS (PPMS) is different. Patients diagnosed with PPMS… (more)

New Study Gives Hope to Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Researchers at the UConn School of Medicine use Patient’s Own Adult Stem Cells to Identify Defect Linked to Myelin Loss in MS

Multiple Sclerosis group
Left to Right: Cory Willis (Crocker Lab), Dr. Rosa Guzzo, Alexandra Nicaise (Crocker Lab), Dr. Matthew Tremblay & Dr. Stephen Crocker (photo courtesy: J. Gridley)

In a report to be published in the journal Experimental Neurology on Feb 1, 2017, researchers in the Department of Neuroscience have determined that cells from patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) have an inherent defect in their ability to promote myelin – the brain tissue damaged in this disease. 

iPS-derived neural progenitor cells from PPMS patients reveal defect in myelin injury response.

Dr. Stephen J. Crocker, the lead investigator and senior author of this study, in collaboration with UConn Neurology and The Mandell Center for Multiple Sclerosis, Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital in Hartford, developed new induced stem cell (iPS) lines from patient’s own blood samples. Using these in the lab they were able to make brain stem cells which may be the next step to unlocking a treatment for this disease.  

Data from this study shows that the benefit of certain experimental drugs which have been suggested to promote brain repair in MS may not work in patients with the progressive form of this disease. However, ongoing studies in the Crocker Lab have found that by using these iPS they can mimic the environment of the diseased brain which is leading to identification of new drugs which could have a better chance at treating the brain damage in these patients.

Other authors of this study included Alexandra Nicaise, B.S. (first author), Cory Willis, B.S. Kasey Johnson, Ph.D. (graduate students), Kristen Russomano, B.S. (UConn medical student), Erin Banda, M.S. technician, Wanda Castro, M.D. former UConn neurologist, Albert Lo, M.D., PhD. Director of Research at the Mandell MS clinic, and Rosa Guzzo, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Dept of Neuroscience.

For comment on this study, please contact Dr. Matthew Tremblay, UConn Health’s newest faculty member in the Neurology Multiple Sclerosis clinic, mtremblay@uchc.edu.

Hidden Hearing Loss

Bernstein Lab
Researchers at the UConn School of Medicine have developed a new test that can identify hearing deficits in some people who have normal hearing test results. (vm/Getty Images)

Do you often have problems hearing yet your doctor says your hearing tests check out just fine? Thanks to research done at the UConn School of Medicine, there is now a proven technique to identify “hidden” hearing loss that likely goes undetected with traditional audiograms.

Two researchers at UConn School of Medicine have developed a new hearing test that can identify hearing loss or deficits in some individuals considered to have normal or near-normal hearing in traditional tests.

Many adults report difficulties hearing in everyday situations, despite having their physicians or audiologists tell them that the results of their hearing tests are normal or near-normal.  Learn more.