University of Edinburgh scientists are working with biotechnology company Genzyme on drug discovery research that could reduce neuron damage in the brain.

The collaboration – supported by Edinburgh BioQuarter’s Business Development team – will seek to identify therapies capable of reducing neurodegeneration, mostly in cases of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is caused by damage to myelin, the protective layer that surrounds nerve fibres. The damage affects the transmission of electrical signals from the brain to the rest of the body and results in problems with muscle movement, balance and vision.  A natural process called remyelination can repair damaged myelin and restore nerve function but is inefficient in MS.

Now, scientists from the University of Edinburgh have discovered a naturally-occurring molecule that prevents the cells needed to help repair damaged myelin from reaching the area of damage. 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 the molecule to encourage the cells to reach the damaged area. Dr Williams said: “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. “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,said: “Remyelination-promoting therapies remain an unmet need and would be of great benefit to MS patients.”

Charity in the news

Sky News presenter Dermot Murnaghan took time out of his schedule to try his hand at trading the markets for two charities including children’s charity Action Medical Research. He was taking part in Celebrity Trader, an online financial trading challenge for City Index which sees a different celebrity each month trying to make as much profit as possible for the charity of their choice. The presenter raised in the region of £4,000.

Getting the word out

A booklet outlining the way complementary therapies can help Parkinson’s Disease sufferers was commended at the British Medical Association Information Awards. The awards celebrate the production and distribution of clinically balanced information and it is the fourth year in a row where resources produced by the charity Parkinson’s UK our resources have been recognised.

Awards announced

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has recognised outstanding contributions to bioscience made by four of its research community. Three awards will be presented to individuals who have accomplished significant advances in bioscience research and one award will recognise excellence in bioscience communication.

Those honoured are:

Professor Caroline Dean, 
John Innes Centre

Professor Dame Linda Partridge, University College London

Professor Jeff Errington, 
Newcastle University

Professor Russell Foster, 
University of Oxford