Brian Weinshenker Receives 2011 John Dystel Prize for MS Research

  Brian G. Weinshenker
  Brian G. Weinshenker

Professor Brian G. Weinshenker, MD, has been chosen by a committee of his peers to receive the National MS Society/American Academy of Neurology’s 2011 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Research. Weinshenker from the Mayo Clinic is being honored for groundbreaking findings relating to the diagnosis and treatment of MS. The award was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Honolulu.

“Dr. Weinshenker’s discoveries have had enormous impact on contemporary MS clinical practice,” Dean Wingerchuk, MD, Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., who nominated Weinshenker to receive the Dystel Prize, stated in a press release.

Weinshenker’s contributions include being the first author of a series of landmark papers describing the natural history of MS.

He revolutionized the treatment of severe attacks of MS with a study of plasmapheresis. This process is a successful method for treating some autoimmune diseases because it removes the circulating antibodies that are thought to be active in these diseases.

With Wingerchuk, Weinshenker defined diagnostic criteria that distinguish an uncommon MS-like disorder, neuromyelitis optica (NMO/Devic’s Syndrome), from typical MS. NMO/Devic’s Syndrome was until recently regarded as a severe form of MS. With colleague Vanda Lennon, MD, PhD, and others, he broke new ground with the discovery of a specific antibody in the blood of individuals with NMO/Devic’s Syndrome that is unique to this disorder. Now, a positive result on a simple blood test can help a neurologist to identify people at risk for NMO/Devic’s Syndrome early in the course of the disease, allowing appropriate treatment to be initiated early and hopefully reduce the damage caused by this disease.

Weinshenker also has contributed to the understanding of genes that make people susceptible to MS, as well as gender differences – in some cases, simultaneously. With Orhun Kantarci, MD, and other members of his team, he found that men less commonly have genetic variants that are associated with high levels of interferon gamma production than women. This observation may partially explain why fewer men have MS than women.

Weinshenker has played key roles in the MS movement. He has received multiple research grants from the society to support his cutting-edge research, and has mentored a number of trainees including several society-funded postdoctoral fellows. He also serves as a member of the executive committee of the National MS Society’s National Clinical Advisory Board and the Society/ECTRIMS International Advisory Committee on Clinical Trials of New Drugs in MS.

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