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Keeping MS research moving

2020 was a tough year for everyone, in many ways.

Our research programme has been significantly affected by coronavirus. Researchers were redeployed to the NHS and labs closed due to social distancing. This affected many of the vital projects we fund – projects that could change what it means to live with MS.

Research resilience

Fortunately, many of our researchers, like Dr Lindsey Forbes, were able to continue their research from home. Dr Veronique Miron was able to present her research to the global community via her computer. And PhD student Alistair Gamble embarked on his MS research journey despite all the restrictions.

Find out about our researchers’ activity here:

We’re also proud of researchers who quickly changed their focus to understand how coronavirus could impact people with MS. New projects, like our MS Register COVID-19 survey, were quickly launched to collect data and help people living with MS understand their risks. To find out more about the risks of coronavirus for people with MS, visit the website here.

Breakthroughs continue

Research breakthroughs have still happened, despite the pandemic. And we’ve continued to make progress towards our goal of stopping MS.

Research from the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair showed that myelin repair in humans is possible. A clinical trial showed bexarotene, a drug developed to treat cancer, was able to repair myelin in people with relapsing MS. Find out more about the bexarotene trial on our website.

Unfortunately, the side effects were too severe for bexarotene to be taken forward. But we now understand much more about myelin repair. And we’re in a significantly better position to measure remyelination in clinical trials.

We are therefore proud to be funding a new clinical trial building on this work. The new trial will test a combination of metformin (a diabetes drug) and clemastine (a hay fever drug) in people with relapsing MS.

Another research finding came from our Edinburgh Centre for MS Research. Scientists found nerve cells in our brains can deliver a boost of energy to help damaged areas function better after myelin damage. And in mice, a diabetes drug called pioglitazone can provide additional help. Visit our website to learn more about this research.

Looking ahead to 2021

The situation with COVID-19 is ongoing and some of our clinical research has had to pause or adapt. However, we’re still hoping to reach some important research milestones in 2021.

A new trial for people with advanced progressive MS, called ChariotMS, launched at the end of 2020. You can find out more about ChariotMS here. The trial will test whether a drug called cladribine can slow down the worsening of hand and arm function for people with more advanced progressive MS. Researchers will be recruiting participants to take part in the trial. Our metformin and clemastine clinical trial will also be inviting 50 people with relapsing MS to take part. And we intend to make our most ambitious research project yet – our efficient clinical trials platform – a reality this year. Read more about our clinical trials platform on our website here.

We’ll be announcing our new Centres of Excellence grants in early 2021. And we also hope to announce some exciting new projects as part of our grant round later in the year. Keep an eye on our website and social media channels to stay up to date on the latest MS research news. You can find the links for these below.

Thank you for your ongoing support. Together, we're closer than ever to stopping MS.