MSA Research Symposium- Morning Session
On the 20th of January 2023 the MSA Trust, in partnership with the UCL Institute of Neurology, hosted its first MSA Research Symposium. Sessions focused on the latest basic science and clinical research into MSA. The event was also a unique opportunity for researchers to come together to learn and share knowledge.
The morning sessions began with a talk by Dr Michel Goedert from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge and Dr Tim Bartels from UK Dementia Research Institute at UCL discussing alpha-synuclein structures in human brain and MSA. Using cryo-electron microscopy Dr Goedert and his team showed that α-synuclein inclusions from the brains of individuals with MSA are made of two types of filaments, each of which consists of two different protofilaments. In each type of filament, non-proteinaceous molecules are present at the interface of the two protofilaments further demonstrating that α-synuclein filaments from the brains of individuals with MSA differ from those of individuals with other parkinsonian conditions, which suggests that distinct conformers or strains characterize MSA. Dr Bartels talked about the structure – function relationships in synucleinopathies. He showed how different disease strains have different biological activities and furthermore, that the activity of alpha-synuclein strains depend on the brain region that is involved in the disease. Finally, he introduced the topic of research into the origin of strain diversity.
This was then followed by a session on the genetics of MSA chaired by Prof Henry Houlden from UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and researchers from UCL discussing findings on somatic structural variants in MSA (Prof Christos Proukakis), brain DNA methylation in MSA (Dr Conceicao Bettencourt) and dissecting the SNCA locus with long-read RNA-sequencing to understand synuclein disorders (Dr Mina Ryten).
The final session before lunch was chaired by Dr Anette Schrag and covered updates on biomarkers where the panel discussed established biomarkers that predict neurodegeneration and progression in MSA (Dr Viorica Chelban), ongoing efforts develop early diagnostic tests for MSA using multiple blood-based biomarkers (Farid Khan) and advanced anatomical MRI for parkinsonian disorders including MSA (Dr Christian Lambert).
The networking component was particularly valuable for my research team in that we are just starting to work on an MSA Trust funded project and this allowed us to establish useful connections with other groups.
I have left with much more information on diagnosis, management and general care for people with MSA and with new ideas for research and collaborations on this condition.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the blogs published on these pages are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the MSA Trust.