Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease where the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a range of signs and symptoms, including physical and mental problems. At present, there are no approved medicines for progressive MS. This form of MS is the most common as it affects 60% of all patients, around 60,000 people in the UK.
Our BRC has undertaken innovative positron emission tomography (PET) studies that have established a direct link between markers of innate immune activation and disability progression. A PET scan is a functional imaging technique that is used to observe metabolic processes in the body.
Based on our research, a first well-powered study of the statin simvastatin was designed and initiated. It showed that a high dose of simvastatin both reduced the rate of whole-brain atrophy and slowed clinical progression. This was of huge benefit to patients as it demonstrated that this progressive disease can be slowed down.
Furthermore, our research is having an economic impact globally for trials as a biomarker validation in progressive MS. Biomarkers are tests that are used to follow body processes and diseases in humans and animals. It promises healthcare impact as a first robustly demonstrated, repurposed treatment.