This is the first post in the “Speaking of Your Research” series of posts. This post is by Dr Nicole Kerlero de Rosbo, who stood up in front of hundreds of people at the first Pro-Test Italia rally and explained why animal research would continue to be an important part of research in multiple sclerosis. In this guest post she discusses the role of animals in MS studies.
I first heard of multiple sclerosis (MS) when doing my PhD at Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia. At that time, 30 years ago, I was a biochemist studying possible mechanisms involved in the degradation of myelin, the sheath that envelops nerves.MS is a devastating chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system where myelin is attacked by cells of the patient’s own immune system, which leads to its degradation and degeneration of the “demyelinated” nerves. It affects young people and can progress through to severe neurological impairment and paralysis. There are two main forms or phases in MS, one, termed “relapsing-remitting” where the patients recuperate between bouts of the disease, and the other with progressive worsening of the neurological symptoms. There is no cure for MS and, until about 20 years ago, there were not many treatment choices that could alleviate the symptoms and/or slow down the deterioration.
From the very beginning of my research career, I have worked with animal models of MS, first in rats and then in mice when, a few years after my PhD I went to work at the Weizmann Institute of Science, an international research institute in Israel. There we developed a new mouse model for MS that was to become the model used throughout the world for chronic progressive MS. In the past twenty-five years, I have seen the emergence of several new therapeutics that can significantly alleviate disease burden for MS patients, even if they are not actual cures (and several more promising novel therapies are currently under development). All of these were first elaborated on the basis of in vitro observations and subsequently developed in the animal models. Without animal models, we would not have had the knowledge we have acquired on the immunological and pathological aspect of MS that has led to the generation of targeted therapies.
I have worked on MS research in many countries around the world, always with the view that our observations in vitro must be per force validated in the animal model. I shall continue to defend the use of the relevant animal models in MS research and ensure that my students have the necessary knowledge to choose the appropriate model. In all institutions I have worked, from Australia, USA, Israel New Zealand and several European countries, the animal ethics have been extremely stringent, as essential to ensure the best treatment for the animals by trained researchers. I do not believe that we would have the knowledge and therapeutic tools for MS that we have now without using different animal models, especially those developed in mice.
Dr Nicole Kerlero De Rosbo
Are you willing to pen a few words about your research for SR? Read our “Speaking of Your Research” post for some suggested guidelines and tips on writing a brief post about your work.