In which we are funded: urinary infection in people with multiple sclerosis


The big announcement!

I wanted to thank the good folks at the Multiple Sclerosis Society for awarding me an Innovation Grant. With Government funding for research dwindling, life scientists rely increasingly on charities to help us answer the important questions that lead to cures.

More than 100,000 people in the UK have MS and, amongst this population, urinary tract infection (UTI) is a very common complication. It’s important to stress that UTI in people with MS is not merely a nuisance. Hospital admissions for UTI occur more frequently in people with MS than in the general population, and these infections seem to make MS worse, being associated with relapses, increased neurological damage from those relapses, enhanced disease progression, increased fatigue, and the worsening of cognitive deficits.

There is growing awareness that the interaction of UTI bacteria in the bladder is more complex than initially thought. The bugs exert clever strategies to evade our defences, including the formation of thick, antibiotic-resistant biofilms and the ability to invade and hide inside our very cells. A lot of what’s known about UTI biology is gleaned from studies in the mouse – but the mouse model does not seem to be the best reflection of what’s happening inside human beings. Yet it’s difficult to do experiments in actual patients, and traditional cancer cell line models can’t emulate the beautiful and three-dimensional architecture of the human bladder epithelium.


Our prototype model

So the MS Society are funding me to help enhance a human-cell model being developed by one of my PhD students, Harry Horsley (whose studentship is also kindly funded by the MS Society). In particular, we want to overcome a technological challenge inherent in switching off genes at will within the cells of this model – which is crucial if we are to gain any understanding of which cellular pathways the bugs are subverting during invasion. This work can serve as a platform to come up with better diagnoses and treatments of chronic UTI in people with MS as well as all the other people worldwide who are plagued by it.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
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4 Responses to In which we are funded: urinary infection in people with multiple sclerosis

  1. Heather says:

    Congratulations !! Awesome. I smile at your use of “charities” like the Brits but of course you are very right and I’m well placed to know it. Work well!

  2. sulcus says:

    Of course you were. Many congratulations!

  3. *Applause*

    And I learned something new as well – UTI is a common complication of MS. Interesting. I wonder if there are links between (auto?)immune processes in the demyelination/inflammation and the way the body handles micro-organism infection?

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