Cambridge Researcher Wins 2017 Barancik Prize for Pioneering Work on Myelin Repair

Cambridge Researcher Wins 2017 Barancik Prize for Pioneering Work on Myelin Repair

A University of Cambridge researcher, Robin Franklin, has been awarded the 2017 Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research for his work on myelin repair and as a potential way of treating multiple sclerosis (MS).

Franklin is a senior scientist at the Wellcome Trust-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute and director of the Cambridge MS Society Centre for Myelin Repair.

He will be awarded the prize and deliver the Prize lecture at theAmericas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2018, which will take place Feb. 1–3 in San Diego.

“I am absolutely delighted and deeply honored to have been chosen to receive the Barancik Prize,” Franklin said in a press release. “I am interested in how tissues naturally regenerate, and identifying ways to stimulate those mechanisms to assist myelin regeneration in MS. This could both prevent further damage to axons and restore function, which would be particularly important for people living with progressive MS.”

In a healthy central nervous systems (CNS), myelin allows for the propagation of electrical impulses between nerve cells, while protecting and supporting these cells. Demyelination, the pathological damage or loss of myelin, is a hallmark of MS.

While myelin repair therapies are not yet a reality, several strategies to enhance re-myelination are currently under investigation, including small molecules, small interfering ribonucleic acids (RNAs), and monoclonal antibodies targeting specific components of the signaling pathways that underlie the myelination process.

Franklin has contributed to a greater understanding of how the myelin coating on nerve fibers (axons) regenerates, seeking clues to repair myelin that has been damaged by MS, and finding ways to repair and protect the nervous system and stop disease progression.

Specifically, Franklin works with oligodendrocytes, which are the myelin-producing cells in the brain that are damaged in MS. With his team at Cambridge, he identified a key factor that stimulates myelin repair, called “retinoid X receptors.” These finding were used to study Targretin (bexarotene), a drug that targets the retinoid X receptor gamma molecule.

In mice studies, the team also uncovered clues to overcoming restrictions to myelin repair that come with aging.

Bruce Bebo, executive vice president of the National MS Society  that administers the prize, acknowledged his contributions in saying: “Professor Franklin continues to make significant advances in myelin repair, offering real hope that solutions will be found that restore function to people living with MS.”

The Barancik Prize, worth $100,000, recognizes and encourages innovation and originality in scientific research of relevance to MS, with emphasis on its potential impact in the search for a cure. The prize is funded by the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation.


  1. LYNNE HEAL says:

    Thank you for sharing. When I contacted the MS society UK about stem cells they blocked me on the telephone they told me that stem cells do not work also to me . Many have had and they have worked . The NHS destroyed all my MRI notes and told me that they will never ever help me also knowing that my old GP told me in 2009 that I can die any day .

    • Chris Snow says:

      I received a stem cell treatment first week of December in Panama, so far I’ve had nothing but good results. Hope to have 2 more treatments This year.

  2. G.G says:

    Is fantastic news. When this miracle will be possible. Our children suffering from this horrible illnesses are waiting for long time. Maybe for some it may be too late. But if is true it will compensate the millions that still waiting for a cure.
    I hope that the top people will allowe this very soon.
    Best regards

  3. Dr. shimaa Essa says:

    at best this new therapy would give only temporarily relief of symptoms. because the real problem in MS is not failure of myelination but rather the autoimmune aggression that keeps attacking the myelin sheath no matter the ability of the central an peripheral nervous systems to quickly remyelinate damage parts. Thus I would be much more enthusiastic to hear about new safe and potent therapy that can prevent the auto-aggression of the immune system.and don’t wast time and resources on therapies we sure know it’s merely symptomatic.

    • Thom Gandet says:

      Doctor, I wonder how long you have been treating MS patients. I was diagnosed with RRMS and Copaxone and Betaserone reduced the frequency of exacerbations by all objective *and* subjective measures. For you to decide that research into slowing progression and relieving some symptoms should be completely abandoned is a truly disturbing arrogance on your part. And yet your thinking on this is, very unfortunately, all too common among clinicians and researchers. This attitude ignores what the *patient* wants – what informed risks the patient wants to take on, for example – and puts the physician in the place of “owning” the patient’s life. I was diagnosed with RRMS in 1985 and two years transitioned into secondary progression. Believe me, doctor, you should stay in research and not make moral decisions that so dearly affects others’ life. If you were a doctor in the 19th century, you would no doubt strongly advise against taking aspirin because the mechanism of pain perception was not understood! Today, if you were my doctor, and I found out that you really believe what you wrote here, I would fire you.

      • Jennifer Michaels says:

        Thank you! I have RRMS and Unilateral Trigeminal Neuralgia, the latter of which is progressing rapidly. Don’t you think I would love to have something to slow or reverse the demyelination? Meanwhile, address the autoimmune issue, because I’m looking at brain surgery. Not to mention the excruciating pain I’m living with!
        Doctor, you’re fired.

      • Jill Clemmons says:

        Thom, Exactly! Those of us suffering from this disease would surely take relief of symptoms that would allow for some normalcy in our lives if only for a while. I wish those who question this could live our lives only a day.

  4. Judy says:

    Not to be pessimistic, but until it’s a clear money maker for the companies funding the study, it may just remain in the good idea sector gathering dust. I read optimistically about oligodendrocites in 1992 after I as diagnosed. If pharma really wanted to repair myelin, they would give it their all.

    • Thom Gandet says:

      You have no idea how complex the nervous system and MS is. I was diagnosed with RRMS in 1985 and have watched many different thoughts about the causes, treatments and cure for MS come and go. I also recall the discovery that there was more than one type of MS and likely somewhat different causes. That complicated finding treatments and cures.
      There were NO treatments for MS available until the 1990s, when Betaserone and Copaxone became available. I started treatment with Betaserone and switched to Copaxone. Those treatments do what they claim to do – to slow progression and reduce the severity of symptoms. They do not claim to be cures. When I transitioned to secondary progressive, it was difficult to accept that there are NO treatments for secondary progressive MS that don’t come with side-effects that seem to me worse than my symptoms of the disease. You are dead wrong about “big pharma” – they have put a lot of resources into finding a cure for MS (among other diseases) because they see the potential of future profits. Furthermore, while Betaserone and Copaxone (among other treatments) work, no one still understands how they work. A thought question: What do you mean by “give it their all”? Why shouldn’t “they” “give it their all”, whatever that means, to ALS? Or to Parkinson’s? “Big pharma” is what is going to save your skin. Instead of whining that someone else isn’t work hard enough to cure you, ask yourself, “What can *I* contribute to finding better treatments and a cure?” Finding something to be actively doing may help you in ways you may not imagine now. I hope you are doing well and wish you all the best!

  5. Kathleen Kazanjian says:

    Rethink MS
    For seven years I was experiencing off and on, hands and feet tingling, burning, pain, difficulty walking, extreme fatigue and depression. Countless visits to the ER and Dr. Office,checking for everything but B12. It then started where I had extreme difficulty getting dressed, had trouble feeding myself, could not write or hold a pen. Bending my neck sent electric shocks thru my body. Went to the hospital for MS testing. MRI, spinal tap, brain scan. After more testing, one Dr. checked my B12 level, it was 80. I spent 10 days in the hospital and 10 days in rehab. They were not sure if I would recover. Left untreated, B12 deficiency can cause permanent brain damage. I was lucky, everything reversed. Maybe if B12 methylcobalamin supplements were given early on, we might be able to prevent MS and other brain and nerve related diseases.
    If that one Dr. didn’t check my B12 level,I would have been diagnosed with MS, because the symptoms are the same.
    B12 is vital for our health. It helps make DNA & RNA, your red blood cells.
    Helps with Depression,Dementia,Sleep Disorders.
    Protects &a rebuilds the Myelin sheath covering your nerve fibers.
    Slows brain shrinkage up to 80%.
    Lowers Homocysteine levels associated with heart disease.
    If low levels are left unchecked, brain damage will occur and can become permanent.
    Helps with age related macular degeneration.
    By supplementing with sublingual Methylcobalmin B12 around 40 or 50 years of age, we could help prevent problems before they start.
    Everyone should supplement and maintain blood levels of B12 in the range from 600 to 2000 pg/ml in order to avoid and, if this is the case, help recover from the wide range of problems that result from B12 deficiency or insufficiency. Health care practitioners: this is the first thing you should check for every patient that comes in, independently of their age or condition

    Methylcobalamin: This is the neurologically active form of B12. It is technically a `coenzyme` of vitamin B12 and it is almost never prescribed by doctors despite being effective, readily available and inexpensive. It is also available in an injectable form. Degenerative neurological conditions are where methylcobalamin shows its greatest benefits over other cobalamin preparations. Brilliant news for MS’ers! Not only has Methylcobalamin been shown to work in neurologic diseases, it also helps with the elimination of toxic substances in the body.

  6. Anita Mallory says:

    Dang Hammerskjold said, “Oh. The road is long and weary but every moment of it is needed in order to know what the road passed by.”
    In this same vein, don’t forget how many failures Thomas Edison has before he invented a light bulb that worked.

    I’m grateful for these dedicated researchers. Someday there will be a cure. Look at what happened with HIV. No one who takes the medicine is likely to die of full blown AIDS.

  7. Nancy Crocker says:

    I have had ms for 18 year’s and it’s been a struggle all in a bad way I pray for help real soon I’m missing out on my life so please inform us msers of any help please

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