Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl, professor of neurology and the Jack H. Skirball Professor of Multiple Sclerosis Research, received a $7.3 million Research Program Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study brain region-specific and cell-specific mechanisms causing worsening of disabilities in MS, an autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease.

The award posits that since disabilities differ among MS patients, a “one-size-fits-all” treatment is unlikely. Instead, a tailored treatment is needed for each disability. The effect of age and sex on disability worsening should also be considered. The eight-year award will support Voskuhl’s efforts to identify how MS disabilities worsen by determining gene expression in distinct cells within each brain region that aligns with each disability.

Voskuhl, who directs the UCLA MS Program, focuses on finding neuroprotective treatments to repair neurological disabilities and is an expert on sex differences research. She has studied how a unique estrogen treatment can prevent brain atrophy and improve cognition in women. This led to her becoming the principal investigator of multicenter clinical trials in women with MS and being the inventor on UCLA patents licensed by CleopatraRX to prevent cognitive decline in otherwise healthy menopausal women.

“An award of this magnitude enables a comprehensive approach to determine the effect of age (older vs. younger) and sex (females vs. male) on brain cell-specific and region-specific gene expression, Voskuhl said. “Together, treatments can be discovered to repair disabilities that are optimally tailored for women and men during young adulthood and aging.”