Schedule a patient in the multiple sclerosis clinic:
Neurology clinic scheduling
UCLA's research investigating the clinical observation that females are more susceptible than males to multiple sclerosis (MS) has been recognized globally. Further, we have translated this basic research to clinical trials in MS patients that include testosterone treatment in men and the pregnancy hormone, estriol, in women with MS. We have also made seminal breakthroughs in the role of sex chromosome genes in disease susceptibility and disability progression. Finally, we are studying gene expression in the brain to create new neuroprotective treatments for MS and other neurodegenerative diseases.
To improve the lives of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases.
The Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Program at UCLA aims to improve the lives of MS patients by developing new therapies for MS and providing expert clinical care. This is accomplished through basic science in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, highly advanced neuroimaging, novel therapeutic trials and a full spectrum of clinical care from inpatient to novel outpatient programs. MS patients are seen by dedicated specialists with decades of combined experience and/or fellowship training in the diagnosis and treatment of this difficult disease. UCLA is a designated MS Comprehensive Care Center.
As an adjunct service to the diagnostic, treatment and consultative services provided, UCLA also offers access to this unique center that provides rehabilitative, recreational, and education services in a small group setting. The center, a joint effort of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the UCLA Department of Neurology, offers a broad continuum of care that will complement the medical management of MS.
A major strength of the UCLA MS Research Program lies in its collaborations with scientists beyond the UCLA Department of Neurology, to capture the extraordinary expertise of the UCLA neuroscience community and focus this tremendous pool of minds on finding a cure for MS. This is who we are:
Rhonda Voskuhl, Professor, Dept. of Neurology, is the Jack H. Skirball Chair in MS Research and Director of the MS Program at UCLA. She is an internationally recognized expert in MS, focusing on translational work by moving from the bedside (clinical observations) to the bench (research) to the bedside (novel clinical trials). She has had two novel agents in four treatment trials for MS completed or underway based on results from research in her lab at UCLA. She was recently selected for the Berlin Institute of Health Excellence Award for Sex and Gender Aspects in Health Research for 2017, a global award recognizing excellence in all areas of health, not limited to MS investigators. Dr. Voskuhl's patient care focuses the diagnosis of MS as well as on major changes in MS treatment management. She also trains the next generation of MS researchers as postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduates.
Barbara Giesser, Professor, Department of Neurology, is clinical director of UCLA MS Clinical Services, specializing in MS patient care. The clinical program offers many treatments that can impact disease course, ameliorate symptoms, improve function and enhance quality of life. Her direction has been central to establishing UCLA as an MS Comprehensive Care Center. She also designed a clinical trial related to exercise in MS.
Dr. Allan MacKenzie-Graham, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, is a neuroimaging expert in MS who is a faculty member of the UCLA Brain Mapping Center. He has done seminal work in showing a halting of brain atrophy in women in the estriol clinical trial and in men in the testosterone clinical trial. In addition, he was the first to show that brain atrophy occurs in the most widely used MS model in the world, creating a tool to screen drugs to halt this atrophy.
Dr. Callene Momtazee, Dept. of Neurology, specializes in MS patient care and provides consultative, diagnostic and management services extending UCLA expertise to the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. She has particular interest in neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a variant of MS. She has also been involved in MS trials at UCLA and recently co-authored a comprehensive review of pregnancy and MS.
Dr. Yuichiro Itoh, Associate Research Professor, Department of Neurology, specialized in genetic analysis and bioinformatics. He is determining how gene expression changes in each cell type in the brain during MS and its model, translating these gene expression changes toward developing novel neuroprotective treatments for MS. His current work aims to discover whether localized gene expression differences in specific cells in the brain are responsible for the differences in types of disabilities that MS patients have.
Dr. Michael Sofroniew, MD, PhD, Professor, Department of Neurobiology, UCLA, an expert in neuroscience, glial biology and genetic engineering of molecules in specific cells within the brain. His work reveals the biology of cells in the brain during MS thereby suggesting new treatment targets.
Dr. Thomas O'Dell, Professor, Department of Physiology, UCLA, an expert in synaptic plasticity and electrophysiologic function to assess the cognitive area of the brain. His work reveals mechanisms of cognitive disability in MS, thereby suggesting new treatments to reverse this.
Dr. Arthur Arnold, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology, an expert in the effect of sex hormone and sex chromosome effects on the brain. His expertise has been central to understanding sex differences in health and disease.
Dr. Robert Elashoff, Professor, Department of Biomathematics, UCLA, an expert in clinical trial design, management and trial statistical analysis. His team has been responsible for data management across multiple sites and statistical analysis of all four clinical trials in MS with UCLA as the lead site.
Post-doctoral fellows in the MS program:
Graduate students in the MS program:
Clinical staff in the MS program:
Laboratory technicians in the MS program:
A UNIQUE APPROACH TO CLINICAL TRIALS AT UCLA -- Rather than the classic “Bench to Bedside” research approach where investigations begin with a molecule of interest or a lab technique, we have successfully implemented a “Bedside to Bench to Bedside” approach whereby investigations begin with a clinical observation.
This approach greatly increases the probability that a finding at the bench will ultimately be significant in MS patients simply because we begin with a clinical observation known to be important in MS. We investigate the clinical observation’s underlying mechanism at the bench, and then translate this back to MS patients in the form of a clinical trial. In the past we have focused on the observations that “MS is better during pregnancy” and “There are sex differences in MS.” This has led to four successful clinical trials thus far, two trials at UCLA and two multicenter trials with UCLA as the lead site, with another global trial in the planning stage. Testosterone treatment of MS men slowed brain atrophy warranting larger studies of its clinical effect in MS men. Estriol treatment of women with MS reduced relapses and showed promise for improving cognition and reducing fatigue, which is now being studied in an ongoing clinical trial. New investigations are based on the clinical observation that “disabilities vary greatly from one MS patient to the next.” This clinical observation is central to why it has been so difficult for MS researchers to find a neuroprotective treatment over the last decades. They do not account for these differences in disabilities in their approach, assuming “one size fits all.” Here, we will embrace these differences in disabilities as a major clinical observation to be unraveled at the lab bench for subsequent translation back to the bedside in the form of clinical trial aiming to improve each MS disability, one at a time. Finally, our success in establishing a model for cognitive decline in MS, as well as the improvement induced with estriol treatment, has led us to investigate mechanisms of cognitive decline beyond MS, namely in menopause and brain aging.
The Next Steps – Summary of Projects
Our goal is to harness the tremendous neuroscience expertise at UCLA to find a neuroprotective treatment to repair disabilities in MS and extend this approach to other neurodegenerative diseases. Specific areas include:
Investing in the future: education
In addition to doing the MS work above, the UCLA MS Program is training the next generation of MS doctors. At any given time there are approximately two to four post-doctoral fellows, three to five graduate students, and 10 undergraduates, who are all being trained. Support for these students for one year can provide time for them to apply for outside funding for three additional years support, thereby amplifying the investment in their future, and in the future of MS research.
Investment in infrastructure: clinical care
We aim to hire another MS clinician to permit us to extend our care to more MS patients in the Los Angeles area and beyond as well as aid in fulfilling our clinical trials mission to test new treatments to repair disabilities.
The UCLA MS Program owes much of its success to the philanthropic support it has received. Support of highly innovative projects in their infancy requires vision and this support at early, critical moments was central in generating the results needed to capture more traditional funding, exponential expanding the impact of giving. Indeed, without the support of our visionary partners, the achievements of the UCLA MS Program would not have been possible.
We request that you partner with us at UCLA in this paradigm shifting approach to find neuroprotective treatments to improve disabilities in MS by giving online today, or for more information, please contact
Elizabeth Naito at firstname.lastname@example.org