Collaborative Programs

Collaboration is a driving force behind the research that takes place within the Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology at Mayo Clinic. A network of research labs and principal investigators forms the hub that brings together physician-scientists across the spectrum of neurological diseases and drives the advances that allow Mayo Clinic to stand apart as a leader in the field.

Here are the clinical, research and development collaborative programs and investigators for the Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology.

Brian G. Weinshenker, M.D.

Dr. Weinshenker is a neurologist at Mayo Clinic and a professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. He has an interest in multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica and other demyelinating diseases. Dr. Weinshenker is studying a rarely recognized but common phenomenon that occurs in multiple sclerosis: weakness induced or exacerbated by neck flexion that is immediately reversible with neck extension. He and his colleagues showed that this phenomenon, known as the McArdle sign, is specific to MS.

Dr. Weinshenker continues to investigate the physiological developments that underlie the McArdle sign, which may be a way of predicting response to certain drugs that enhance axonal function in multiple sclerosis.

Neuroregeneration and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory

Isobel A. Scarisbrick, Ph.D., is an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and an associate professor of physiology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Research in Dr. Scarisbrick's Neuroregeneration and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory focuses on neural repair and neural regeneration, with a goal of solving fundamental mysteries of the biology and physiology underlying these processes, which inform mechanisms and new targets for patient therapy.

Dr. Scarisbrick is a globally recognized scientist credited with a number of important scientific breakthroughs related to the mechanisms of neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, astrogliosis and myelin homeostasis.

Nucleic Acid Structure and Recognition Laboratory

Louis (Jim) J. Maher III, Ph.D., is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Maher's Nucleic Acid Structure and Recognition Laboratory collaborates to bring approaches of molecular biology and in vitro nucleic acid selection to the problem of triggering therapeutic remyelination in multiple sclerosis.

The lab has developed folded DNA aptamers with affinity for myelin membranes and the ability to stimulate remyelination in some mouse models of MS. Long-term goals include understanding the mechanism of these agents and optimizing them for potential clinical application.

Multiple Sclerosis Imaging Laboratory

The Multiple Sclerosis Imaging Laboratory is a collaboration between principal investigators Jan-Mendelt Tillema, M.D., and John D. Port, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Tillema is a neurologist at Mayo Clinic and an assistant professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Port is a radiologist at Mayo Clinic and an associate professor of psychiatry and a professor of radiology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester.

The lab's mission is to explore the mechanisms of disease by improving imaging features of central nervous system demyelinating and inflammatory diseases, with the goal of developing new and improved magnetic resonance imaging techniques for accurate diagnosis, prognosis and disease monitoring. The vision is to improve detection of all pathological aspects in MS, validate new techniques and then translate them into clinical practice.

Neuroimmune Interaction in Health and Disease Laboratory

LongJun (Long-Jun) Wu, Ph.D., is an associate professor of neurology and an associate professor of neuroscience at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Wu's Neuroimmune Interaction in Health and Disease Laboratory studies the molecular signaling of microglia-neuron communication, microglia in synaptic function and neuronal circuits, and microglia in pain, epilepsy, stroke and autoimmune diseases.

His lab's long-term vision is to identify and manipulate microglia-specific therapeutic targets that will complement existing strategies for the treatment of brain diseases, including epilepsy, pain, stroke and autoimmune diseases.

Translational Neuroimmunology Laboratory

Charles L. Howe, Ph.D., is a professor of neurology and an associate professor of neuroscience at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Howe's Translational Neuroimmunology Laboratory focuses on understanding and therapeutically manipulating immunological responses to injury, loss of homeostasis, degeneration, autoimmunity and infection in the central nervous system, with the goal of protecting neurons, axons and neural circuits.

The lab's long-term research goal is to develop novel therapeutic strategies to protect and repair the central nervous system. To achieve this goal, Dr. Howe's research team manipulates and modulates the immune response and targets the injury pathways and dyshomeostatic responses induced by neuroinflammation.

Epilepsy and Neurophysiology Laboratory

Gregory A. Worrell, M.D., Ph.D., and Squire (Matt) M. Stead, M.D., Ph.D., both neurologists at Mayo Clinic, are principal investigators of the Epilepsy and Neurophysiology Laboratory. The lab focuses on using large-scale high spatiotemporal resolution electrophysiology recordings in humans to investigate seizure precursors and mechanisms of ictogenesis. Among the chief lines of investigation are quantification of microseizures, high-frequency oscillations, ultraslow/DC potentials, and extracellular action potential of single neurons.

Dr. Worrell is also a professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Stead is an associate professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester.

Mitochondrial Neurobiology and Therapeutics Laboratory

Eugenia Trushina, Ph.D., is an associate professor of neurology and an associate professor of pharmacology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Trushina's Mitochondrial Neurobiology and Therapeutics Laboratory focuses on understanding the early molecular mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, multiple sclerosis, metabolic disorders and aging, with a special emphasis on the contributing role of altered mitochondrial dynamics and function.

Studies in Dr. Trushina's lab provide a foundation for the development of disease-modifying mitochondria-targeted interventions. For example, based on basic science research, her research team identified the inhibition of axonal trafficking of mitochondria as the underlying molecular dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease, justifying the restoration of axonal trafficking as a therapeutic strategy that targets early mechanisms of disease.

Claudia F. Lucchinetti, M.D.

Dr. Lucchinetti is a neurologist at Mayo Clinic. She is chair of the Department of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and is also a professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester. Dr. Lucchinetti investigates the pathogenic mechanisms of multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica and other autoimmune neurological diseases using cutting-edge neuropathology and imaging tools.

Dr. Lucchinetti's lab established the paradigm for MS lesion classification, and her current research emphasis includes the analysis of cellular and tissue metabolism, mitochondrial dysfunction and reactive oxygen species generation, metal dyshomeostasis, and the cellular and biochemical processes underlying astrocyte and oligodendrocyte pathophysiology.

Neuroimmunology Laboratory

The Neuroimmunology Laboratory is led by a three-person team: Sean J. Pittock, M.D., the director of the center, who is a neurologist at Mayo Clinic and a professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota; by Andrew McKeon, M.B., B.Ch., M.D., an internist and a neurologist at Mayo Clinic and an associate professor of laboratory medicine and pathology and a professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester; and by John R. Mills, Ph.D., an assistant professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester. Together, they lead a large and highly specialized clinical, research and development team of consultant colleagues and lab personnel.

The lab's clinical mission is to expedite the diagnosis of autoimmune neurological diseases and cancer by providing immunobiologically sound serological tests and interpreting autoantibody profiles. Its twofold research and development mission is 1) to define clinically pertinent neuronal muscle and glial antigens and investigate immunopathological mechanisms of neurological disease in vitro, in patient cells and tissues, and in animal models, and 2) to devise and validate novel serological tests to aid the diagnosis of neurological autoimmunity and to predict and monitor cancer.

The lab's major research advances include discoveries related to novel biomarkers of autoimmune demyelinating and inflammatory central and peripheral nervous system disorders; creation of diagnostic decision trees; and development of standardized clinical management approaches to complex autoimmune neurological disorders.