Multiple sclerosis is always life changing, but it is the progressive forms of the disease that affect quality of life the most.
In secondary progressive MS, periods of relapse and remission become increasingly rare and short-lived. And for people with primary progressive MS, the condition moves even faster, with no relapses or remissions at all.
Currently there are few treatments for progressive forms of the condition, but a team at Sheffield Hallam believes that biomolecular analysis of brain tissue could point the way to new solutions.
Professor Nicola Woodroofe, head of Sheffield Hallam's Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre, is leading a two-year project that uses mass spectrometry to compare the post-mortem brain tissue of healthy individuals and people with progressive MS.
The focus is on the chemical composition of lipids within the white matter of the brain, which appears to change in progressive MS cases.
'This research will provide a deeper understanding of lipid changes during the course of MS and possible new treatment strategies,' says Woodroofe.
'We've already completed some preliminary research that has shown there is evidence of chemical differences in lipids in the apparently normal white matter of progressive MS cases.
'If we can characterise these differences we can then look at what treatments might be available to prevent or delay these, as well as determine what triggers these changes.'
Supported by funding from the National MS Society in the United States, the team’s research is set to deepen understanding of MS throughout the scientific community, and could lay the foundation for treatments that help sufferers maintain their health and independence for longer.