Microglia’s Role in MS and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases: Daniel Reich, MD, PhD


The senior investigator at the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke spoke about new opportunities for research into brain lesions and microglia.

“[We should] transcend our little categories: I work on MS; they work on Alzheimer. No, we have to really understand the ways in which brain tissue could be damaged. There probably aren’t an infinite number of ways and they're probably shared across diseases. So, I think it's a tremendously exciting time to be able to open up this field and for new researchers at the beginning of their careers to go into this. I think there's a lot we're going to learn in the next few years.”

A new phase 2a clinical trial paradigm consisting of 2 open-label studies studying anakinra (NCT04025554) and tolebrutinib’s effects on 7-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (7T MRI) paramagnetic rim lesions (PRLs) in multiple sclerosis (MS) is underway. The studies were presented at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum, February 25-27, by Jemima Akinsanya, DO, Neuroimmunology Clinical Fellow, National Institutes of Health (NIH).1

Akinsanya and colleagues are researching the chronic and acute inflammatory properties of PRLs and are looking closely at the role of microglia in these lesions. Anakinra was approved by the FDA for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and neonatal-onset multisystem inflammatory disease in 2001, and tolebrutinib is an investigational, orally available, brain-penetrant Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor.2

NeurologyLive spoke with a principal investigator of the study, Daniel Reich, MD, PhD, senior investigator, National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH, to learn more about microglia and its shared role in MS as well as other neurodegenerative diseases. He stressed the need to look at brain damage comprehensively across diseases and spoke about the growing opportunities for research in this cross-sectional field.

For more coverage of ACTRIMS Forum 2021, click here.

1. Akinsanya J, Absinta M, Dargah-zade N, et al. Toward the use of paramagnetic rim lesions in proof-of-concept clinical trials for treating chronic inflammation in multiple sclerosis. Presented at ACTRIMS Annual Forum; February 25-27, 2021. Poster P126.
2. Kineret® (anakinra) for injection, for subcutaneous use. FDA. 2012. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/103950s5136lbl.pdf
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