Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★★★★
In anticipation of a second-lockdown at a meeting with colleagues last night I was asked the question about what positive experiences I could reflect on from the first lockdown. Firstly, no international travel and a focus on family, home life and the realisation that we can live more sustainably. Secondly, walking or running the talk. I decided to take my own prehabilitation advice seriously and I have managed to rehabilitate my physical and mental self and get my right hip working again. This is quite remarkable. Three years ago I had written off any future prospect of running long distance never mind a marathon. Six months into the pandemic and I am getting ready to try and complete a marathon in a months time. Why? Funding and important time-sensitive research for people with multiple sclerosis.
We have a problem with the current antibody tests for detecting past infection with coronavirus. The current assays are not sensitive enough and are not detecting antibodies in a large number of people with asymptomatic or mild infection and possibly in pwMS who are on certain immunosuppressive disease-modifying therapies, in particular the anti-CD20 treatments rituximab, ocrelizumab and ofatumumab. Detecting antibodies in these people is really important in that it would indicate that they have been exposed to the virus and therefore likely to have cellular immunity.
In response to this challenge and thanks to a grant from the Barts Charity, our group (Dr Kang and his team) have developed an ultrasensitive assay (GloBody) that will work on blood spots. Preliminary results show that the assay is detecting antibodies in samples that have been called negative with commercial antibody assays. This is not unexpected because the assay was designed to have amplification steps to detect very low levels of antibodies. We did this because we want to study low-level antibody responses in pwMS on and off different DMTs.
This assay will now allow us to test a large number of pwMS using self-collected blood spots to see if they have been infected with coronavirus and are now immune. The tragedy is we have been promised a grant to do the initial part of this study by a charity. However, as donations have dried up this charity can’t afford to give us the money to cover the initial costs of the study. This is when I took up your suggestion to crowdfund. To show how serious I am about the crowdfunding I have decided to run the virtual New York City Marathon. All I have to do is record a single 42.2km run using the GPS-tracking application STRAVA sometime between the 18th October and 1st November.
In reality, I started my training very late and don’t really have the time to get truly marathon ready. However, as it is so important for us to raise the money so we can get this critical time-sensitive research done I am going to give it a go anyway.
I would like to thank those of you who have already sponsored me. I would also like to urge you to donate to our cause. Even a small donation or £2-£5 would help. Microdonations all add-up.