USD husband-wife team awarded $1 million to study multiple sclerosis

USD husband-wife team awarded $1 million to study multiple sclerosis Robin and Keith Miskimins The University of South Dakota has announced that a husband and wife team of professors in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences will receive $262,000 each year for the next four years to study multiple sclerosis. The grant from the National Institutes of Health, totaling more than $1 million, was awarded to Keith and Robin Miskimins of Vermillion.

Joining the Miskiminses at The University of South Dakota School of Medicine Health Science Center in Sioux Falls to announce the grant were Dr. Robert Talley, dean of the School of Medicine; Dr. Royce Engstrom, dean of the Office of Research; and Marcia Olson, vice president of the Dakota chapter of the National MS Society.

"We are honored to be in a partnership with the Miskiminses and the university in announcing this grant to the public," Olson said. "Multiple Sclerosis affects 6,000 families in the Dakota Chapter and this announcement validates the cutting edge research occurring at The University of South Dakota Medical School.

"The National Multiple Sclerosis Society invested over $26 million in fiscal year 2002 alone in research, proving to be the number one entity of funding. It is truly through opportunities such as this that we are able to accomplish our education and research objectives two-fold."

Dr. Engstrom said the Miskiminses research was a great example of the kind of grant-funded research that takes place at USD.

"The U does approximately $25 million in external funding to support the research, teaching, and service mission of the university. The majority of those dollars are for research projects carried out by faculty and students. The university has made a concerted effort in recent years to enhance its stature as a research institution, and sees itself in a leadership role as a small, but effective, research-oriented institution that places a premium on research that also improves the education of students.

"Research is by no means limited to the medical school,

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but is conducted campus-wide. Other large grants fund work in paleontology, neuroscience, cardiovascular research, chemistry, and biology," he said.

The aim of the Miskiminses' research is to provide valuable information that, when combined with new therapies for reducing the immune system attack on myelin, will lead to new treatments for MS patients.

The ultimate goal for their study is a better understanding of the disease that could give insight to clinical researchers searching for a cure.

The Miskiminses are interested in how certain cells within the central nervous system break down in diseases like Multiple Sclerosis. These cells have an outer fatty membrane called myelin that serves as insulation.

"In demyelinating diseases, such as MS, the myelin is not properly maintained leading to impaired neurological function," Robin Miskimins said. "The long term goal of the study is to understand the mechanism that controls the growth, survival and differentiation of these cells."

The processes the Miskiminses will be studying are complex and highly regulated by the cell. And all is under genetic control. Exactly how the information gets to the gene that is responsible for myelin production is not known. The Miskiminses have already identified one protein, p85, which directly affects myelin formation. Now, one of their goals is to identify and characterize other proteins that interact with p85.

"These processes are highly regulated," Robin Miskimins said. "By studying the expression of the genes that are responsible for producing the components of myelin we hope to identify the signals that are important for the normal development of the membrane."

Part of the funding from this grant will support a postdoctoral fellow, a technician and a graduate student in the division of biomedical sciences at USD.

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