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Seema Tiwari-Woodruff

Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences
Seema Tiwari-Woodruff
Developing Drug Compounds to Battle Multiple Sclerosis
Affecting more than 2.3 million people worldwide, multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, breaking down the protective cover coating the axons of nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. After testing different chemicals that mimic estrogen, Tiwari-Woodruff found one successful in fighting the disease without negative side effects. The drug compound indazole chloride (Ind-Cl) diminishes inflammation that accompanies MS flare-ups and stimulates the regeneration of the myelin sheath – the nerve pathway coating that is progressively destroyed as MS attacks the nervous system.

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Multiple Sclerosis fighting compounds
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Latest Research

Q&A

Q: Can you explain your research?
My research deals with understanding how multiple sclerosis (MS) causes dysfunction in the brain and spinal cord. We look at various aspects including nerve cell function using two models of the disease – one with the immune component and the other without- to detect how MS is occurring. In our lab, we take the models to help us understand how the disease is progressing.

Q: What are the goals of your research?
The goal of my research is to understand the process of demyelination – a process where axons lose their protective coating or myelin sheath. As a result, the exposed nerve fibers, that transmit information from neurons to the rest of the body, deteriorate. My lab seeks to identify potential treatments to slow, halt and possibly reverse demyelination, theoretically preventing the devastating progression of MS and possibly reversing existing nerve damage. We recently published a study which describes a promising chemical compound, indazole chloride, which we discovered can remyelinate axons in mice by mimicking estrogen and activating estrogen receptors.

Q: Why is partnering with the industry essential?
Several international companies from Switzerland, Sweden and Israel have approached me about collaborating on research. These are important because they provide funding that is essential to continuing our research in finding a cure for MS and diseases like it.

Q: How will your research affect the treatment of other diseases?
There are many implications to my research, because it can affect many diseases. Other conditions where demyelination occurs such as traumatic brain or spinal chord injuries would also be affected by my research. It’s important because there is no available drug right now to help reverse the effects of demyelination. The drug that we are studying would be the first to cure the condition not just treat the symptoms, which most drugs currently in the market do.

Q: What about your research fascinates you?
I am excited every morning to come to work and work with this very complex disease. The more I learn, the less I know and every time another researcher or I think we have made a discovery to understanding the disease we find out that there is another realm to it which we still need to learn. I am completely fascinated by discovering how the disease works and to try and figure out ways to research it. My hope is that one day, in my lifetime, we are able to figure out what this disease is and how we can stop the disease from progressing and cure it.

Q: How has UCR helped with your research and why should we not be overshadowed by other schools?
UCR has really changed the way I look at my research. It has helped me in three different ways. First is financial; they have given me the opportunity to focus on writing grants that fund my research. Second is infrastructure; I have an amazing lab with the necessary equipment to successfully complete my research. Finally, the administrative and faculty support at UCR has been integral in the success of my research. They are encouraging and make me feel like we can do anything. The collaboration with my colleagues is very valuable to me.  

Q: How does it feel to have your daughter come to UCR and study neuroscience?
I am absolutely excited that my daughter will come to UCR and get a first class education in neuroscience. It is going to be a nice ride, the next four years!

Seema Tiwari-Woodruff "Our lab has the capacity to study multiple sclerosis from not just one angle, but from all directions so we get an overall picture of what is affected and what we need to treat."

—Seema Tiwari-Woodruff
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