Multiple Sclerosis

Mayo Clinic is committed to a mission of inspiring optimism and extending healing to each of our patients. This mission is critical to people who live with multiple sclerosis (MS) and look for hope and an improved quality of life while facing a devastating disease.

Despite dedicated research, multiple sclerosis has remained a poorly understood disease with limited treatment options to mitigate symptoms.

Through research in the Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology, Mayo Clinic is at the forefront of scientific advances to uncover the inner workings of MS, to better understand disease progression and to identify new targets for therapy.

Using our unique, team-based model of research, we apply the latest knowledge and resources in individualized medicine, regenerative medicine and neuroimaging to find the answers to patients' unmet needs.

Meeting MS head on

The center's research involves a unique vision for modeling, understanding, treating and curing multiple sclerosis. This vision encompasses a new way of looking at axon injury as a critical therapeutic target in MS and emphasizes the importance of protecting the neuron from further injury or degeneration, also known as neuroprotection. Mayo Clinic researchers have found that preserving functional pathways is an essential step for new remyelinating and immunomodulatory therapies to take effect.

The vision for MS research at Mayo Clinic is the result of a unique blend of clinical research and basic science investigators coming together to push the boundaries of our current understanding of this complex disease. The MS research community at Mayo Clinic is committed to repairing and restoring neurological function in patients through the application of cutting-edge tools in imaging, regenerative medicine, stem cell biology, individualized medicine, drug discovery, pathology, genetics, engineering and computational biology.

Stopping MS progression with individualized medicine

To learn how to halt and reverse the progression of multiple sclerosis, researchers are studying the disease through the lens of individualized medicine.

The field of individualized medicine applies and integrates the latest discoveries in genetics and stem cell biology to personalize care for each person. With a growing body of evidence to suggest heterogenic forms of MS, individualized medicine holds great promise for unlocking new knowledge about what causes MS and how we can treat it more effectively.

Our research in the Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology seeks to identify new targets and new mechanisms of injury that underlie the progression of disability in multiple sclerosis.

Using state-of-the-art techniques for growing neural cells derived from skin cells collected from individual patients with MS, we are testing new hypotheses about the ways in which the immune system injures demyelinated axons and disrupts neural circuits. We are also developing models to study the possibility of transplanting these patient-derived stem cells into regions of demyelination to facilitate repair and re-establish protection of axons. Our findings are helping accelerate the discovery of new therapeutic strategies to treat disease progression.

We also seek to identify clinical, imaging, molecular and serological biomarkers of distinct MS subtypes.

A better understanding of MS disease heterogeneity is critical to the identification of new treatments that can be tailored to a patient's specific disease subtype. We are establishing a discovery platform that allows us to generate so-called brains in a dish from patient-derived stem cells for identifying and testing new individualized approaches to patient care.

Novel regeneration (remyelination) with stem cells and good antibodies

In addition to the use of stem cells, our researchers are continuing to build on the innovative use of therapeutic antibodies — known as good antibodies — to drive regeneration and repair in tissues that have been damaged by the effects of multiple sclerosis.

Our team has successfully stimulated cell regeneration and has repaired myelin in animal models of MS, and early-phase clinical trials are testing the safety of this approach in patients. These therapies may help nerves recover normal signaling functions and improve movement and cognition in patients with MS and other autoimmune neurological disorders.

Using advanced neuroimaging to detect and study MS

Imaging research at Mayo Clinic focuses on understanding how state-of-the-art advanced MRI techniques can assist in the individual management of patients. This research group is a joint collaboration between investigators and clinicians in the Department of Neurology and the Division of Neuroradiology, focusing on both central nervous system (CNS) demyelinating disease and CNS autoimmune disease.

Imaging disease involvement inside and outside of the typical demyelinating lesion is a key component to enable us to eventually better individualize patient management in multiple sclerosis. The goals are to improve the diagnostic accuracy of MRI and to improve the prognostic and disease monitoring value of our novel imaging tools. Our investigators have focused on developing new sequences and novel imaging processing techniques using a whole-brain approach to better understand MS and to better visualize disease activity in all stages, with the goal of translating these new techniques into clinical care.