18 May 2014

Congratulations to Dr Steven Petratos

Congratulations to Dr Steven Petratos, who has been successful in obtaining a highly competitive grant to further his research on multiple sclerosis (MS). The award was made by the US based National MS Society. It is a pilot grant for USD40,000, and the topic is "Delineating the role of the monocarboxylate transporter 8 (MCT8) in driving oligodendrocyte precursor cell maturation". MCT8 carries thyroid hormone, and when it doesn't work there's a problem with myelination, as with MS.
MS is commonly induced by the specific destruction of the protective sheath of nerve fibres, known as myelin, by immune cells, which mistakenly attack this structure in the brain. Inevitably, this leaves the nerve fibres bare and susceptible to further damage with severe and permanent implications for patients suffering with this devastating disease. Importantly, the molecules which may contribute to the replenishment of the myelin-forming cells, or oligodendrocytes, are poorly understood.
This project plans to identify molecules which may be important in the genesis of oligodendrocytes from stem (immature) cells in an attempt to identify those cells that may be critical in the repair of bare nerve fibres exhibited in the brains of MS patients. Using specialized human stem cells, we plan to show the relevance of an important protein that can regulate the growth of oligodendrocytes by helping transport the hormone of the body involved in cell metabolism (Thyroid hormone).  Findings from this study may allow for future work that targets these stem cells of the brain to enhance their repair of nerve fibres subsequent to MS 'attack'. Repair of these nerve fibres may prevent further clinical progression of MS enhancing the quality of life for all sufferers.

“My research focuses on the progressive forms of MS,” said Steven. “Our recent landmark research showed that a specific molecule within nerve fibres is altered or damaged, and that can lead to the progressive form of MS.” Using direct gene therapy, Steven and his team discovered they can block the molecule and subsequently put a handbrake on the progressive form of MS.

“Our new approach to treating MS patients with the progressive forms of the disease is by using their own stem cells", added Steven. “This limits further progression of the disease and ultimately leads to a better quality of life for patients.”