You are here:

Multiple sclerosis: assessing nerve repair in children to find out if they could benefit from new treatments

Published on


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects around 130,000 people in the UK.[1] It is estimated that five in every 100 people with MS experience their first symptoms before their eighteenth birthday.[2] While no two people will have the same range and severity of symptoms, unfortunately, the condition is lifelong and there is no cure. Dr Jonathon Holland of Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge is studying whether children with MS can repair damage to the protective coating around nerve cells more efficiently than adults with MS. If so, they could benefit from potential new treatments currently being tested in adults.

This Research Training Fellowship is jointly funded by Action Medical Research and the British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA).

How are children’s lives affected now?

MS is caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking a protective layer called the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This process, called ‘demyelination’, interferes with the transmission of electrical messages between the brain and other parts of the body.

“A person with MS may experience a variety of symptoms – which can include problems with their vision, movement, sensation, or balance,” says Dr Holland. “Other problems, such as tiredness and difficulties with their memory or thinking, are often more hidden but can also impact on their quality of life.”

Most people are diagnosed with MS between 20 and 40 years of age, but the number of people being diagnosed under the age of eighteen is increasing.[2]

“Although the progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS are different for everyone, they can cause significant and long-term difficulties for affected children and their families,” says Dr Holland.

How could this research help?

“We aim to find out whether children with MS could benefit from potential new treatments currently being tested in adults,” says Dr Holland.

While the body can repair some damaged myelin, this process can be impaired in people with MS – and it is hoped that treatments designed to promote remyelination can help to slow down disease progression.

“We suspect that this repair process is more effective in children with MS than adults, which would indicate that these new treatments might also be helpful for them,” says Dr Holland.

This study will involve up to 30 children with MS and a similar group of healthy children. The team will assess the children at the start of the study and after one year using advanced brain scans, specialist eye testing, and a blood test. The results will help establish how remyelination occurs over time – and whether this helps prevent nerve damage.

Gaining a better understanding of remyelination in children with MS will guide future research, including whether drugs targeting this process should be tested in children with the condition.

Dr Holland


  1. MS Society, MS in the UK: [website accessed 18 October 2022]
  2. MS Trust, Childhood MS: [website accessed 26 October 2022]

Research table

Project details

Project Leader Dr Jonathon AA Holland, MRCPCH, MA(Cantab) MB BChir AFHEA
Location Child Development Centre, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University NHS Foundation Trust
Project Team Professor Alasdair J Coles, PhD MRCP BM BCh
Dr Manali V Chitre, FRCPCH MRCP(Paeds) DCH PG Cert Ed MB BS
Dr Ming Lim PhD MD MRCP (UK) BM BS BMedSci
Other Locations Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge
Department of Paediatric Neurology, Addenbrooke’s Hospital
Grant Amount £250,000
Start Date
End Date
Duration 36 months
Grant Code (GN number) GN2945


We do not provide medical advice. If you would like more information about a condition or would like to talk to someone about your health, contact NHS Choices or speak to your GP.