UAMS Medical Center
LITTLE ROCK — A researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has been awarded a $348,487 grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to study the cause and possible therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic neurological disease affecting multiple regions in the brain and spinal cord.
Patricia Wight, Ph.D., professor of physiology & biophysics at UAMS, will use the grant to investigate how myelin proteins are regulated at the level of the gene. Myelin is a protein coating that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers. When myelin becomes inflamed or is destroyed — a process called demyelination — the normal flow of nerve impulses through the central nervous system is interrupted, causing a person to have MS.
“Understanding how ‘myelin-specific’ genes are regulated will be important in designing therapies aimed at treating patients suffering from MS,” Wight said.
Wight’s grant is one of 67 new research projects funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and is the only one awarded in Arkansas. Internationally, the society is funding a $50 million effort to spur momentum in MS research.
“With its cutting-edge research, the National MS Society is laying the groundwork to solve the mystery that is multiple sclerosis so that we can eradicate it once and for all,” said Brooke Teeter, programs coordinator of the society’s All-America Chapter, Arkansas Division, which is headquartered in Little Rock. “This year, the society will fund over 380 new and ongoing MS research projects. This investment in critical research is paying off with new treatments and better methods of diagnosis, rehabilitation and symptom management.”
MS affects more than 2,800 families in Arkansas and more than 2.5 million worldwide. There are six FDA-approved drugs that can impact the underlying disease in people with the more common forms of MS. However, none of these drugs can stop or cure the disease.