I have several areas of interest in research regarding multiple sclerosis,
both in basic research and in clinical research. My main interest at the moment is the relation between Epstein-Barr
virus (EBV) and MS. Just about everyone gets infected with EBV at some time during childhood, and there are several
very solid studies which link EBV and MS. We are doing studies to determine whether EBV actually causes MS or not.
We appreciate all of you who have volunteered for one of our studies or donated blood while you were in clinic. Brief
descriptions of current and past studies are given below.
Our current major research project is to determine whether the immune response to EBV correlates with
disease activity in MS. We are recruiting people that look like they have active disease, drawing blood samples every
two weeks to measure the response against EBV, and doing MRI scans every 4 weeks to measure the MS disease activity.
We hope to see that the anti-EBV response goes up before new MS lesions appear. This project is in progress, and we
will be collecting data for another year before we get final results.
The project I want to do next is to look for cross-reactivity between EBV and the brain. The idea
is that something on the virus resembles something in the brain. When the immune system is activated to attack the EBV
infection, it also attacks the brain and causes new MS lesions and symptoms. We have some preliminary data on this,
and I am applying for grant funding to study it more thoroughly.
The project we recently completed was a comprehensive measurement of antibodies against EBV. We
found that people with MS have increased antibodies to multiple different proteins of EBV, with some proteins being more of
a target than others. This was published in 2013.
We also measured the cellular response against EBV. Both people with MS and people without MS
react pretty vigorously to EBV. The response in MS was a little higher, but we couldn't say there was a definite difference.
I am also interested in what causes
MS relapses. People are stable for long periods, and then fairly quickly develop new symptoms. We have published
one study where we looked at what the white blood cells in the blood were doing during a relapse and while someone was stable.
We found some interesting changes, but these need to be verified. We have plans to study this further with a new set
of blood specimens.