In a decades-long research career devoted to unlocking the secrets to multiple sclerosis, Oscar Bizzozero, PhD, credits patient interactions as a critical key to his lab’s success.
“MS is the most common neurological disorder of young adults,” says Bizzozero, professor and chair of the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology. It is a devastating diagnosis and it hits them in their prime.”
The disease’s daily impact first hit home several years ago when he gained a research lab assistant with MS. Now, Multiple Sclerosis Society grants help support investigations into how the disease progresses at a cellular level and provide feedback on the issues that patients believe are important.
“Working with the MS Society is gratifying,” he says. “ Their members are well-informed and highly curious about the state of research.”
Bizzozero’s previous studies have discovered a protein unique to MS. He has also found that the disease’s progression involves the immune system attacking brain and spinal cord cell proteins.
In normal circumstances, an enzyme complex called the proteasome would activate to remove that damage, but MS patients seem to have little or no supply of the complex and it never switches “on.” Bizzozero’s team is investigating if this failure is unique to MS or present in other disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, he said.
Bizzozero and his team are also hypothizing that oxidized cell deaths contribute to cell death. If true, then preventing that oxidation may be key to preventing disability in patients with progressive MS. Long-term, they hope their research will suggest new treatments to halt progress of the disease.