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Dr Krystyn Van Vliet Discusses Using 3D Platforms to Overcome MS Drug Discovery Barriers

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Krystyn Van Vliet, PhD, vice president for research and innovation at Cornell University, discusses MS drug discovery barriers and overcoming them using 3D platforms.

Krystyn Van Vliet, PhD, vice president for research and innovation at Cornell University, discusses MS drug discovery barriers and overcoming them using 3D platforms.

She expanded upon the topic on March 1 at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ACTRIMS) Forum 2024 during the session, "Barriers to Neural Repair;" her presentation was titled "Engineering 3D Platforms to Overcome Barriers of Drug Discovery for MS."

Transcript

Could you please explain the barriers in drug discovery for MS?

There are many, many barriers in drug discovery and MS. It's part of the reason why it's been such a durable challenge for patients. The barriers that we focus on are really twofold. One is that part of the features of MS is that it's a demyelinating disease, so the nerves don't stay insulated with a protein called myelin, and that contributes to neuron death; that's a key part of the MS progression.

There really aren't very many ways to ask questions about improving myelination, specifically. So, we've worked on tools that say, "How do we actually visualize and understand that myelination process better so that the nerves can stay healthy?"

The second challenge, as we see it, is that part of the MS drug discovery approach has been really reliant on using animal cells. For good reasons because the key cells are from the human brain, but the more progress we can make in using human cells to study human response to MS drugs, the better we are to have outcomes that parallel what's going on in the lab to what's going on in the patient.

How can 3D platforms address these obstacles and contribute to the identification of novel targets and pathways for MS drug development?

In the central nervous system, the brain is a 3-dimensional organ, neurons are 3 dimensional, and this process that we study in terms of myelination and how and when it breaks down, MS symptoms worsen, that is a 3-dimensional process. It's really complex. It happens developmentally when your brain is growing, and it happens when it changes in a brain lesion in MS.

If you really want to understand that process, you have to have tools that allow you to observe that in 3 dimensions. Traditionally, we used flat glass or plastic dishes to grow cells and say, "How do the cells behave in response to different drugs?" Increasingly, my group and other groups are developing ways to watch that myelination happen in 3 dimensions and then watch the drug response happen in 3 dimensions.

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