Dr. Stephen Lambert, an Associate Professor in the College of Medicine has received a four-year $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create in vitro test beds that can aid in the development of new drugs to treat neurological disorders affecting the myelin sheath. This sheath coats and protects nerves, and its breakdown is associated with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, the most common neurological disorder affecting young people.
The grant represents a collaboration between Dr. Lambert, a myelin biologist and Dr. James Hickman a bioengineer in the UCF Nanoscience Center, whose team showed for the first time last year that myelin could be produced in the lab environment without the use of any type of growth serum. That finding is significant because it allows researchers to more clearly study the causes of breaks in myelin and also the impact of proposed drug treatments.
The research will be carried out at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences building at the UCF Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona and in Dr. Hickman’s specialized lab in the Nanoscience Center at UCF. “The ability to reproduce the complex phenomenon of myelination under controlled conditions, and then induce demyelination under the same conditions, will allow us to have a greater understanding of what happens in these debilitating demyelinating disorders. Current therapeutics focus mainly on controlling the inflammatory nature of diseases such as MS to limit the development of neuronal damage. The long-term goal of this research is to try and come up with new mechanisms and therapeutics for reversing that damage and its terrible consequences,” said Dr. Lambert.
“The application of the high-tech tools developed in my lab at the Nanoscience Center to this complex problem of myelination and demyelination brings us that much closer to developing new therapeutics and at some stage a cure for diseases such as MS,” Dr. Hickman said.