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UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology

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MS Clinical Studies in the NMR Research Unit

NMR Research Unit


We are a research team based at the Institute of Neurology in London. We use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain detailed information about the structure and function of the nervous system - this helps us to understand how MS affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

We work closely with our colleagues at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and members of our team also offer clinical services there. We are supported by a programme grant from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

We are part of the Department of Neuroinflammation which, in addition to our MRI studies, undertakes laboratory based research into the pathogenic mechanisms underlying neuroinflammatory conditions, in particular MS.

We are also a part of the Queen Square MS Centre and the UCL Partners MS group. We work in collaboration with other research groups within the United Kingdom and abroad, and are active participants in the European MRI in MS research network (MAGNIMS).

Our current aims

To enable us to capitalise on the advanced made to date by our research group our current aims are will help us translate these findings into real benefit to people affected by MS.

  1. To help ensure we speed up the time to MS diagnosis by extending and refining the recent improvements in diagnostic criteria; this is turn will allow effective treatments to become available at an early stage of the condition when they are likely to be most effective. 
  2. To throw new light on the mechanisms by which MS progresses by using more advanced and novel scanning methods ; this will in turn identify potential new strategies for treating MS and preventing disability.
  3. To provide better ways of predicting the future course of MS whether it will be more progressive and disabling or alternatively more benign, using information obtained through our follow up research studies, one of which will take place after 14 years from onset. This will help identify those people for whom disease modifying treatment is needed, and when it is required, we will be better able to decide which treatment will be most suitable for individual people with MS.
  4. To perform treatment trials in the much neglected area of progressive MS using sensitive MRI measures such as changes in the volume of the brain and spinal cord, which will tell whether the treatment is able to prevent loss of nerve cells and fibres and in so doing is likely to slow or halt the progressive phase of MS.
  5. To perform treatment trials, in people with MS who have an established disability, which aim to restore better function by achieving repair of the tissue damage, in particular by enhancing remyelination: the scanner will be used to detect evidence for remyelination in these trials. We hope that the trial research during the next 5 years will identify the first effective treatments for preventing loss of nerves cells and fibres and enhancing remyelination in MS.