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SBU Researchers Receive $825k Grant From National Multiple Sclerosis Society to Study Remyelination Potential During MS


Dr. Joel Levine Heads Interdisciplinary Team for the Five-year Study

STONY BROOK, N.Y., February 27, 2007 Joel Levine, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook University, received a five-year $825,000 grant to investigate the remyelinating potential of central nervous system (CNS) cells during Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disorder characterized by chronic demyelination of the CNS leading to progressive disease. The grant term begins on April 1 and is supported by a Collaborative MS Research Center Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The study brings together five established investigators from several departments. They include Dr. Levine; Holly Colognato, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, and Styliana-Anna Tsirka, Ph.D., Associate Professor, in the Department of Pharmacological Sciences; Mirjana Maletic-Savatic, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology, and William Van Nostrand, M.D., Professor in the Department of Medicine.

The Stony Brook team joins approximately 350 other investigators worldwide supported by the Society. These scientists share a common goal to end the devastating effects of MS. According to the Society, MS affects approximately 2.5 million people worldwide and 400,000 in the United States.

"We will combine our broad array of expertise and different experimental approaches to converge on our central question of how to monitor and modulate the remyelinating potential of the brain and spinal cord over the course of MS," says Dr. Levine, whose research focuses on adult oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), which play a significant role in remyelination of demyelinated areas (plaques) of the CNS.

In early phase MS, plaques are repaired, but repair fails during the chronic phase despite the presence of OPCs within plaques. Dr. Levine says that this suggests that environmental factors limit the capacity for internal repair. With a shared interest in glial cell biology and the extracellular environment, the research team will investigate why remyelination does not occur in the chronic phase.

More specifically, the investigators will analyze the migration, survival and differentiation of transplanted neural stem cells, OPCs and other cell types in several different animal models of demylenation and CNS damage. They hope to discover 1) what environmental features may limit the migration of glial cells and other cell types into demyelinated plaques, 2) if there are specific extracellular molecules within demyelinated plaques that prevent or limit the differentiation of OPCs into myelin forming oligodendrocytes, and 3) what the role of extracellular proteolysis is in demyelination, inflammation, and remyelination.

The grant will sponsor two seminars per year, which will bring experts in MS to the University. In addition to a wide range of University scientists involved MS or MS-related research, Stony Brook University Medical Center is the home of the only Pediatric MS Center in the region.

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