Copious research efforts have been undertaken in MS research in the last three decades to unravel immune mechanisms in the periphery thought to be responsible for disease onset and effector mechanisms mediating CNS damage. However, the underlying molecular causes of MS are still not understood and prognostic estimates can hardly be given to patients in the absence of valid surrogate markers. Traditional therapeutic disease modifying regimens aim at immunomodulation or immunosuppression and were developed in the context of autoimmune research in conjunction with other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and diabetes mellitus. However, response to anti-inflammatory therapeutic interventions differs significantly between MS and other autoimmune disorders. Moreover, in many MS patients, response to the current interventions has only limited impact on disease progression. Finally, novel therapies in MS aimed at reducing the CNS-directed immune responses are associated with a severe risk for opportunistic CNS infection.
There is currently an urgent need to go back to basics and apply completely novel ideas and unconventional methods as well as brand new technologies to research in this area. Now is the time to take up the challenge and, for the first time in Germany, promote interaction between strong research groups at three different sites that all have the ideal prerequisites for illuminating and expanding highly novel and innovative perspectives in MS research. The goal of this consortium, which consists of scientists from centers in the Rhine-Main area, Münster and Munich, is to unravel the pathology of MS and develop as well as understand novel therapeutic concepts. The ideal prerequisites for such progress are provided by effectively linking scientists from neighboring disciplines with classical neuroimmunologists, who possess a proven track record in MS research and patient care and arise from an important and internationally visible nucleus in this field. One key aspect here is the strong bidirectional crosstalk between pure experimental research in animal models and clinical research in human systems and patients, which allows the best transfer of basic knowledge into clinical care – and vice versa.