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Cambridge neurologist honoured for his work on multiple sclerosis

Professor Alastair Compston, pictured left, Head of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, was today awarded the K.J. Zülch Prize for his contributions to research on multiple sclerosis.

Professor Compston received the award with his co-recipient, Professor Hans Lassman from the University of Vienna, for their 'internationally outstanding achievements in basic neurological research'. The prize, often recognised as one of the most prestigious in the field of neuroscience, is given annually on behalf of the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation by the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science.

For over 30 years, Professor Compston has been researching the causes and treatments of multiple sclerosis. His current research focuses on using the leukaemia drug alemtuzumab to treat multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease which is caused by the body's immune system attacking nerve fibres and their protective insulation, the myelin sheath, in the central nervous system. This damage prevents the nerves from 'firing' properly, and then leads to their destruction, resulting in physical and intellectual disabilities. Alemtuzumab works by destroying one population of white blood cell (lymphocytes) and, by shutting down the immune system, inhibits the damage to brain tissue that occurs in MS.

Professor Compston's recent research findings suggest that alemtuzumab may allow damaged brain tissue to repair, enabling the recovery of neurologic functions lost during previous MS attacks and relieving symptoms experienced by patients in the early stages of the disease.

Gertrud Reemtsma established the "Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation" in 1989 in memory of her deceased brother, the neurologist Prof. Dr. Klaus Joachim Zülch, former Director of the Cologne Department of General Neurology at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt. In setting up the Foundation, Gertrud Reemtsma intended to keep the memory of her brother's scientific work alive and to recognize and promote exceptional achievements in basic research in neurology.

The ceremony took place in the Gürzenich Hall in Cologne. Reinhard Hohlfeld, Director of the Institute of Clinical Neuroimmunology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, delivered the laudation for Professor Compston.

Article by the University of Cambridge Press Office.

Posted on 10/09/2010

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