NIH Researcher Feted for Innovative Multiple Sclerosis Research

Daniel Reich, MD, PhD, won the 2015 Barancik Prize for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis Research.

A researcher from the National Institutes of Health was recently named the winner of the 2016 Barancik Prize for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis Research.

The Barancik Prize for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis Research is awarded to a scientist or a team of scientists whose research is innovative, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This annual award gives the winner $100,000.

This year’s winner is a neurologist, neuroradiologist, and neuroscientist who imaged the brain of patients with multiple sclerosis. Daniel Reich, MD, PhD, directs the Translational Neuroradiology Section in the Division of Neuroimmunology and Neurovirology of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

“I work on multiple sclerosis, and I do that by using MRI machines to take pictures of the brain, and the spinal cord,” Dr Reich said. “That’s opened new doors into understanding how we might treat it, and prevent the disease.”

Along with his research group, Dr Reich created a novel imaging approach that can detect inflammation in the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain.

Dr Reich’s approach has generated multiple important discoveries, including 2 major patterns of lesion evolution. This could be used to assess the degree of tissue damage or recovery, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“Dr Reich’s novel approaches to imaging disease activity in people with multiple sclerosis are creating new pathways to better treatments,” said Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

While MRIs are an excellent imaging technology, the images are grainy and do not offer the same amount of clarity that a microscope offers. Dr Reich and his group have been working to develop a way to take clearer photos of the brain, and now are consistently taking images that are 10 times clearer than what is the current standard for high resolution images, according to a press release.

Due to this new technology, investigators were able to identify specific areas of the meninges where the white blood cells can travel in the brain, and where that contrast disappeared. This was found in 40% of patients with progressive multiple sclerosis, but less in patients with early stage disease.

Dr Reich believes that this finding may help to create a new treatment for patients with multiple sclerosis. There is currently a clinical trial that is using this research to identify patients who would benefit from entering the trial, Dr Reich added.

“Winning the Barancik Prize obviously means a lot to me as a researcher,” he concluded. “I’m really quite thrilled the committee found our work interesting, promising, and innovative."