Collaborative MS Research Center Award

The Mayo Clinic has long been a premier center for the care of multiple sclerosis. In the past twenty years, we have recruited an outstanding group of basic and clinical investigators whose major focus is MS research. The award funds pilot projects that are logical extensions of ongoing MS research at Mayo but that also represent a fundamentally new direction for our research group. It is based on collaboration between separate research groups, each with a unique area of expertise. Aptamer screening and characterization (Maher lab), plasma membrane lipid metabolism and MRI imaging of the mouse CNS (Macura lab) are each highly specialized areas. The projects focus this expertise on oligodendrocyte biology with an emphasis on the potential use of aptamers and human monoclonal antibodies as research and therapeutic reagents. Remyelination promoting antibodies are well established, and further characterization of their function and in vivo distribution will be very valuable. While the aptamer experiments may seem to be high risk, aptamers are a new and promising technology for the development of reagents that can bind specifically and with high affinity to many types of molecules; a technology that should be explored for its potential for the study and treatment of MS.

In addition, this award allows us to assemble the entire Mayo MS research community once each year for an MS Center Retreat consisting of short informal presentations by each of the MS investigators, with ample time for social and scientific discussion. As a second mechanism to assemble the Mayo MS community, we have started an MS Seminar Series that invites 2-4 speakers per year with an emphasis on speakers that relate to the pilot projects and other areas of development. The funds also support two postdoctoral associates for one year while they seek other sources of support.