April 3, 2017History of Medicine
Stephen L. Hauser is the Robert A. Fishman Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where his work has focused on immune mechanisms and multiple sclerosis (MS). Hauser is a principal investigator of a large multinational effort to identify genetic effects on MS, and part of the team that identified that humoral immune mechanisms are important in the pathogenesis of MS lesions, leading to the development of B-cell based therapies for MS. He has contributed to the establishment of nationwide and international genetics consortia that have identified more than 50 gene variants that contribute to MS risk.
Using comparative genomics between African-American and Caucasian MS populations, Hauser’s group was able to identify HLA-DRB1 as the primary MS signal in the MHC, and also fine map other secondary loci in this region.
In 2007, as a senior organizer of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium (IMSGC), Dr. Hauser helped identify the first two non-HLA genes involved in MS susceptibility, IL-2R (CD25) and IL-7R (CD127). In 2010, his laboratory published the complete genome sequences and the epigenome of identical twins discordant for MS. By mid-2011 more than fifty MS associated risk alleles were identified, and by now nearly the entire array of common variants associated with MS susceptibility have now been mapped. Hauser also has focused on the role of the B cell and immunoglobulin in the pathogenesis of the disease. He developed and characterized an MS disease model that replicated the core feature of vesicular demyelination previously observed in MS, and demonstrated that this pathology resulted from the synergistic effects of autoreactive T-cells and pathogenic autoantibodies.
In 1999, Hauser published work identifying specific myelin reactivity of these autoantibodies deposited in areas of myelin damage in MS brains. Hauser translated this finding into a new potential therapy for MS. He led a large-scale clinical trial with rituximab, a chimeric monoclonal antibody that depletes CD20+ B cells, and demonstrated robust efficacy in relapsing remitting MS. A second trial in primary progressive MS reported in 2009 that rituximab may similarly be effective in patients with primary progressive MS who also have evidence of ongoing inflammatory CNS disease. More recently, a third clinical trial with a fully humanized anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, ocrelizumab, replicated the results of the rituximab trial in relapsing remitting MS. With the MS Bioscreen project, Hauser has pioneered precision medicine for complex diseases like MS, creating an “actionable digital growth-chart for complex traits”
Hauser is a graduate of MIT (Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Medical School (Magna Cum Laude). In 2010 Hauser was appointed to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. He is a co-editor of the textbook Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine and past editor-in-chief of the Annals of Neurology. Hauser trained in internal medicine at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, in neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and in immunology at Harvard Medical School and the Institute Pasteur in Paris, France, and was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School before moving to UCSF. Hauser received the 2013 Charcot Award from the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, the Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award, and the John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research. In 2011 he delivered the Robert Wartenberg Lecture at the American Academy of Neurology, an honor given for excellence in clinically relevant research. Hauser is also the chair of the Committee on Gulf War and Health Outcomes for the Institute of Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Association of American Physicians.
In addition to the research of Dr. Hauser, there is a long history of studying MS called by some: the Viking Gene.
Robert Carswell (1793-1857), a British professor of pathology, and Jean Cruveilhier (1791-1873), a French professor of pathologic anatomy, described and illustrated many of the disease’s clinical details, but did not identify it as a separate disease. Specifically, Carswell described the injuries he found as “a remarkable lesion of the spinal cord accompanied with atrophy”. Under the microscope, Swiss pathologist Georg Eduard Rindfleisch (1836-1908) noted in 1863 that the inflammation-associated lesions were distributed around blood vessels. The French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) was the first person to recognize multiple sclerosis as a distinct disease in 1868. Summarizing previous reports and adding his own clinical and pathological observations, Charcot called the disease sclerose en plaques. The first attempt to establish a set of diagnostic criteria was also due to Charcot in 1868. He published what now is known as the “Charcot Triad”, consisting in nystagmus, intention tremor, and telegraphic speech (scanning speech) Charcot also observed cognition changes, describing his patients as having a “marked enfeeblement of the memory” and “conceptions that formed slowly”. Diagnosis was based on Charcot triad and clinical observation until Schumacher made the first attempt to standardize criteria in 1965 by introducing some fundamental requirements: Dissemination of the lesions in time (DIT) and space (DIS), and that “signs and symptoms cannot be explained better by another disease process”. Both requirements were later inherited by Poser criteria and McDonald criteria, whose 2010 version is currently in use. During the 20th century, theories about the cause and pathogenesis were developed and effective treatments began to appear in the 1990s.
There are several historical accounts of people who probably had MS and lived before or shortly after the disease was described by Charcot. A young woman called Halldora who lived in Iceland around 1200 suddenly lost her vision and mobility but, after praying to the saints, recovered them seven days after. Saint Lidwina of Schiedam (1380-1433), a Dutch nun, may be one of the first clearly identifiable people with MS. From the age of 16 until her death at 53, she had intermittent pain, weakness of the legs, and vision loss - symptoms typical of MS. Both cases have led to the proposal of a “Viking gene” hypothesis for the dissemination of the disease. Augustus Frederick d’Este (1794-1848), son of Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex and Lady Augusta Murray and the grandson of George III of the United Kingdom, almost certainly had MS. D’Este left a detailed diary describing his 22 years living with the disease. His diary began in 1822 and ended in 1846, although it remained unknown until 1948. His symptoms began at age 28 with a sudden transient visual loss (amaurosis fugax) after the funeral of a friend. During his disease, he developed weakness of the legs, clumsiness of the hands, numbness, dizziness, bladder disturbances, and erectile dysfunction. In 1844, he began to use a wheelchair. Despite his illness, he kept an optimistic view of life. Another early account of MS was kept by the British diarist W. N. P. Barbellion, nom-de-plume of Bruce Frederick Cummings (1889-1919), who maintained a detailed log of his diagnosis and struggle. His diary was published in 1919 as The Journal of a Disappointed Man.