SBP team supports multiple sclerosis research at Walk MS

Written by 
Jessica Moore
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On Saturday, April 23, a team of SBP researchers and their family members participated in Walk MS to raise funds for multiple sclerosis (MS) research and show their support for those affected by the disease.

“Walk MS is about making connections and working as a team to fight this debilitating disease,” said team leader Barbara Ranscht, Ph.D., professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program. “This opportunity to engage with the people affected by MS adds urgency to the research in our lab and motivates my advocacy in the community.”

MS, which affects about 2.3 million people worldwide, disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms vary from one person to another and over time, and can include numbness in the limbs, extreme fatigue, impaired balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, and tremors, sometimes progressing to severe neurodegeneration and disability.

Research in the Ranscht laboratory could help find a cure. They study how specific cell surface proteins regulate nervous system development, including formation of myelin, the insulating layer around neurons that degenerates in MS. Myelin ensures rapid flow of electrical signals, similar to the plastic coating around a wire and protects neurons from degenerating.

A key discovery from her group in recent years was the finding that Contactin-1 is required for myelination in the central nervous system. Contactin-1 is an anchoring protein found on the surface of axons, the part of neurons that is surrounded by myelin, and on the cells that generate myelin. The group is now using mouse models of MS to test whether Contactin-1 is also required to repair damaged myelin. If so, it could represent a novel therapeutic target.

About 7,000 people participated in the two Walk MS San Diego events at NTC Liberty Station and in Carlsbad. San Diego participants in this national event have raised about $650,000 so far, and this number could continue to rise, as donations are still being accepted.

SBP researchers in photo: Ranscht (second from left), Petrus DeJong, M.D., Ph.D. (middle, postdoc) , Linnea Adams (right, research assistant)