Researchers at NUIG are leading a European consortium seeking new treatments for multiple sclerosis.
The €3.9 million project aims to work with researchers from Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic to create new devices and treatments for the devastating neurological disease multiple sclerosis.
Dr Una FitzGerald, Principal Investigator of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Lab and Director of the Galway Neuroscience Centre at NUIG has secured €3.9 million in EU funding to train a new generation of researchers combating MS.
She said that the funding award has been a “huge boost” to their research efforts at NUIG, and will enable them to train “PhD graduates who are MS experts and who have helped pioneer a new medical device that could eventually help those suffering from the later stages of MS.”
Multiple Sclerosis is the most common neurological disease to affect young adults, with roughly 8,000 people in Ireland currently suffering from the disorder.
The disease usually has two phases, an early “relapsing remitting” phase which causes impairments like double-vision or limb weakness, before heading into a period where the symptoms disappear.
That is followed by the second phase, called ‘progressive MS’, where more degenerative symptoms appear and start to degrade the individuals quality of life.
Deteriorating symptoms can include much-reduced mobility, increased fatigue and cognitive challenges that can make it hard for sufferers to continue to work or enjoy the same lifestyle.
Treating multiple sclerosis
While there are many therapies that can alleviate symptoms of MS during its early stages, the options for really treating the disease are limited.
There is currently only one disease modifying therapy, Ocrelubzimab, which is approved for treating the progressive and degenerative phase, and that is only suitable for a subset of patients.
This programme will aim to get researchers from across many different fields of medical science to look at how their expertise can be brought to bear on multiple sclerosis.
It combines expertise in biomaterials, neuroimmunology, stem cell biology, neurological disease, biomarkers, computer modelling of cerebrospinal fluid flow and medical device design.
This Europe wide consortium led from Galway is targeting the need for treatments for the progressive stage of MS, where patients are currently living with less hope.
Part of the EU Initial Training Network (ITN), the programme will fund 15 PhD students across Europe, five of which will be based out of NUIG.
They will be under the supervision of Dr Fitzgerald and her co-awardees Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM and Dr Nathan Quinlan from the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway.
Prof Pandit said that this project affords CÚRAM “the opportunity to combine our unique areas of research excellence to produce real solutions for those who urgently need it.”
Prof. Pandit will contribute expertise in the development of biomaterials for drug release and Dr Quinlan will generate in silico models of biological systems that are integral in the development of medical devices.
Their knowledge will complement Dr Fitzgerald’s experience in the field of neuroscience and pathology to provide a broad base of knowledge for training new students.
This project is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.