07:11am Saturday 11 July 2020

Multiple sclerosis under the spotlight

Three researchers working at the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health have received a total of $442,000 to further our understanding of this crippling disease affecting nearly 24,000 Australians.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system in which the myelin (fatty insulating sheathes protecting nerve fibres) becomes damaged and scarred. This impairs how well nerves conduct impulses, affecting a person’s motor, sensory and even cognitive functions.

The causes of MS are unknown, but genetic and environmental factors are suspected of having some role. Three quarters of those living with MS are female.

Professor Trevor Kilpatrick leads the MS division at the Florey and is a neurologist and Head of the MS Unit at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. As well, he is the Director of the Centre for Neuroscience and the Melbourne Neuroscience Institute at The University of Melbourne.

Prof Kilpatrick has been awarded $92,000 to continue his world-recognised research into the functional implications of genetic variation in a specific gene called MERTK and it’s role in MS susceptibility.

Dr Simon Murray from the University’s Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience received $180,000 and, working in the laboratory of Dr Holly Cate, will be deepening his understanding of the growth factor BDNF, investigating its potential to promote myelin regrowth in MS.

Dr Stan Mitew also from the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience and colleague Dr Ben Emery received $150,000 to investigate whether mechanisms for myelination that occur during development can be reactivated to enhance myelin repair in MS.

MS Research Australia plays a vital role in increasing the capacity for MS research in Australia by supporting the career development of promising young MS researchers including encouraging young clinicians to expand their focus into research.

For more information, contact Amanda Place at the Florey: 0411 204 526 or
Annie Rahilly at the University of Melbourne on 0432 758 734

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