Digging deeper: our stories

Monitoring MS progression

There are few options for determining the severity of multiple sclerosis (MS) in a patient, and yet this knowledge is critical to administering treatment. Adding to a portfolio of innovative research, Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center members have developed a “colorful” technique for assessing disease progression.


To determine MS severity, researchers typically count the number of lesions in a patient’s brain detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). But by taking images of the brain over several days, Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center member Dominik Meier and colleagues at Brigham & Women’s Hospital developed methods to capture and measure how MS lesions appear and then disappear, reflecting the ability of the brain to repair itself.

Based on these findings, the investigators developed a technique for color-coding lesions detected by MRI to denote how long the lesions are present in the brain. Because lesions that persist for longer periods are likely to represent more progressive disease, the color-coded images provide a more telling picture of disease progression.

About the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center

Established in 2001 by Dr. Joseph Martin (Dean of Harvard Medical School, 1997-2007), the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center is a pioneering biomedical research group focused on ending suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. By drawing on the intellectual strength and proven capability of the Harvard medical community and colleagues throughout the world, the NeuroDiscovery Center has developed a unique approach to understanding and treating these devastating diseases. 

Our focus:

  • Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and other degenerative diseases of the brain.

  • Combining academic creativity with a business-like approach to ensure a focused and efficient effort to advance the search for cures.

  • Accelerating the pace of progress, from scientific discoveries to meaningful patient treatments.

  • Real collaboration across the Harvard Medical community, prominent research centers worldwide and the private sector.

  • Applying discoveries about one neurodegenerative disease to better understand the others. 

Whereas our ultimate goal is simple — to improve the lives of the millions who face the physical, emotional, and economic burden of neurodegenerative diseases — these diseases represent a far too complex and urgent problem for any one group to tackle. To date, we have engaged over 800 researchers in a growing portfolio of outcome-directed research programs. For visionary philanthropists and scientists, participation in the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center's work offers the best hope for progress — please join us!

As of December 2010, the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center has 934 members from various institutions within the Medical area. The chart below lists the primary affiliations of our members: