Kent State University Professors Collaborate to Advance MS Research

Faculty Spotlight on Dr. Daniela Popescu, M.D., Ph.D. - MS Research

“Creativity, perseverance, hard work, and love for science can lead to discovery and unveil parts of the unknown.” With these words, Daniela Popescu, M.D., Ph.D., distills her approach to neuroscience research and her teaching style as Assistant Professor in the Biological Sciences department at the KSU-Geauga. With a background in the medical and neuroscience fields, she has both an M.D. degree and a Ph.D. degree in Pharmacology. Since 2014, she has been collaborating with three notable scientists on a breakthrough research project to study the role of vitamin K during remyelination, the key process at work when the body tries to resist the progression of MS.

Along with scientists Dr. Ernest Freeman and Dr. Jennifer McDonough — both Associate Professors at the Kent campus — and Dr. Leah Shriver, Associate Professor at the University of Akron, Dr. Popescu has been studying the impact of vitamin K on the levels of sulfatides during remyelination. Her research project was funded by a $44,000 National Multiple Sclerosis Society Pilot Grant.

Dr. Popescu explains that, in healthy people, myelin surrounds axons of neurons in both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. It protects neurons and speeds the conduction of electrical signals along the axons. In people with multiple sclerosis (MS), myelin in the central nervous system and the cells that produce myelin in the central nervous system deteriorate, causing demyelination. These changes slow down the transmission of the electrical signals along the axons, which are responsible for the development of the neurological signs and symptoms that people with MS experience.

MS affects approximately 1 million Americans and 2.5 million people worldwide. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. The progression, severity and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable. Most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, affecting two to three times more women than men. MS symptoms vary but can include fatigue, numbness, and tingling, weakness, dizziness and vertigo, pain, difficulty walking, spasticity, vision problems, cognitive and emotional changes, among other problems.

“A huge effort is being made by researchers from all over the world to find ways to remyelinate the demyelinated axons and restore the rapid nerve impulse transmission,” Dr. Popescu says. “Our data showed that vitamin K enhanced the production of brain sulfatides during remyelination, suggesting that vitamin K could play an important role in remyelination, since brain sulfatides are major lipid components of myelin that have been demonstrated to play important roles in maintaining myelin function and stability.”
Dr Popescu is hopeful that her collaborative research will pave the way for further “discovery and unveiling parts of the unknown” in the fight against MS. “Our study was the first to show that vitamin K enhances the production of brain sulfatides during remyelination, however, our results represent just a small step in a sequence of steps. Our study might provide a foundation to further study the molecular mechanism underlying remyelination in MS. There is so much that we still do not know at this time, and there are so many other experiments that await to be performed.”
Read the scientific study that was published in August 2018 in the PLOS One journal

KSU Professors

POSTED: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 03:25 PM
Updated: Friday, March 31, 2023 12:18 AM
Estelle R. Brown