Date: September 1, 2007
They’re both inflammatory disorders of the central nervous system. In both, the immune system becomes abnormal and attacks the nervous system. And now, transverse myelitis and multiple sclerosis are the focus of Johns Hopkins Project RESTORE, a research initiative that aims to rapidly develop new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for these two debilitating diseases.
Already the Hopkins team has identified novel strategies that allow the nervous system to withstand immunologic attack. From stem cells, they have generated thousands of new motor neurons in the spinal cords of paralyzed animals. What’s more, they’ve stimulated these neurons to extend axons out toward muscle.
Strategies like these will be applicable to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, traumatic spinal cord injury and stroke. For patients with longstanding paralysis, they represent the only hope for restoration of function.
RESTORE researchers develop and maintain extensive clinical databases on TM and MS patients. Using novel robotic and computer technology, they screens tens of thousands of drugs individually and in combination to see how they affect the cells involved in degenerative insults that mimic the injury in the human disease.
When diseases are rare, it is often difficult to obtain funding from the National Institutes of Health to pursue new research questions. Fortunately for Project RESTORE, donors are providing much of the philanthropic support necessary to advance its scientists’ discoveries.