In the first half of the 20th century, scientists found that injecting segments of human spinal cord into an animal, specifically into a rabbit, caused partial paralysis and difficulty with gait and swallowing. Over the years, this discovery has become an important factor in creating an animal model for the disease multiple sclerosis, or MS. Consequently, research in MS has progressed due to the use of rats and mice, commonly known as murine models, to test treatment methods for MS. The specific model being utilized is the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model.

The EAE murine model has helped scientists find several therapies for MS, such as interferon beta-1a, interferon beta-1, glatiramer acetate, and Natalizumab. However, like in many disease studies, these are only five successes out of the thousands of therapies tested. Hundreds of therapies, which succeeded in the EAE murine model, have ultimately failed to be effective in human MS. For some time, there has existed an “immunotherapy gap” between the animals used for testing and human MS patients. ‘t Hart et al. (2011) defined this as “problems in translating new treatment concepts from animal models to the patient” (p.119). Are the failures due to the inherent flaws in the EAE murine model (such as differences between the model and MS), or to scientific, experimental, and human variances? Finding an answer to this question will help increase the number of therapies that succeed in both the murine EAE model and human MS because it will provide not only the source but viable solutions to the problems. Since the murine EAE model is a less than perfect candidate for MS testing, the insufficiently tailored experimental design methods used with the model are unable to make up for the inadequacies of the model.

Karthika Solai is a junior in the Honors College at VCU majoring in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry. A neighbor with multiple sclerosis (MS) inspired her to research the disease.

Solai has worked as a research lab assistant for a team examining the nanoparticles used to create more efficient solar cells. Additionally, she serves as the President and co-founder of Girl Effect at VCU. Solai plans to go to graduate school to continue her studies in Chemistry.

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Image by Volker Brinkmann

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