Neurological disorders are caused by structural, biochemical or electrical abnormalities in the brain, spinal cord or peripheral nerves. The majority of rare neurological disorders are hereditary, and there is immediate potential for therapeutic interventions to treat these devastating diseases. The Harrington Discovery Institute’s programmes include over 40 neuroscience projects. Lead researchers for this theme include OHC Director Prof. Matthew Wood, whose research has focussed on novel therapies for degenerative disorders of the nervous system and muscle. Prof. Laurent Servais is a paediatric neurologist involved in numerous international clinical trials for a range of neurological diseases. Prof. Carlo Rinaldi is a clinician scientist researching and treating a range of neuromuscular diseases. The OHC has expertise and capabilities in ataxias, neuromuscular diseases and rare epilepsies.
Research and drug development in neuromuscular diseases is a key area at Oxford and among Harrington researchers. The Muscular Dystrophy UK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre, directed by Matthew Wood, aims to transform the treatment landscape for neuromuscular diseases. It drives excellence in discovery science and has newly increased clinical capabilities, led by Laurent Servais’ group: STRONG - Specialised Translational Research Oxford Neuromuscular Group. Prof. Angela Russell is a Harrington UK Rare Disease Scholar developing therapies for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, in collaboration with Dame Kay Davies, who has a longstanding interest in the disease.
‘Ataxias’ collectively refer to a group of different neurological disorders that can affect coordination, balance and speech. Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA) is the most common inherited ataxia and is the OHC’s first priority area thanks to a philanthropic gift. In collaboration with charities and foundations, OHC is deploying capabilities and expertise in areas of greatest unmet need in FA. The Oxford Ataxia Centre is one of only three specialist centres in the UK, and recruits patients to clinical trials. Prof. Andrea Németh is clinician scientist researching cerebellar ataxias and other movement disorders, and Prof. Richard Wade-Martins has a long-standing interest in Friedreich’s Ataxia, in target and drug discovery.
Find out more about Friedreich's Ataxia
The OHC has a developing interest in paediatric epilepsies, an area of significant unmet clinical need. Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences has epilepsy research groups alongside state-of-the-art brain imaging methods, giving direct insights into the human brain. Many epilepsy diagnoses have a genetic basis, making the possibility of treatments with emerging personalized medicines like antisense oligonucleotides (ASO) a reality in the coming years. Oxford is currently running an ASO trial for the rare neurological disorder, Angelman Syndrome.