Investigating a new treatment option for MS
Associate Professor David Brown from St Vincent’s Centre for Applied Medical Research, University of NSW, was awarded a three-year project grant in 2014 from the Trish MS Research Foundation in partnership with MS Research Australia.
This research focuses on a protein called Macrophage Inhibitory Cytokine 1 (MIC-1/GDF15), which was discovered in Australia by Associate Professor David Brown’s research colleagues. It is now being internationally developed as a new therapy for a number of diseases including obesity and inflammation.
Preliminary data from Associate Professor Brown’s work has shown that MIC-1/GDF15 also acts on the innate immune system. The innate immune system is generally the ‘first line’ of defence against perceived threats to the body. It is also involved in longer term clean-up and repair responses to damage.
The attention of many researchers has increasingly been turning to the role of the innate immune system in MS as it appears to play a significant role in the ‘slow-burning’ accumulation of myelin and nerve damage that occurs in progressive forms of MS. This suggests that the innate immune system may be the system that mediates the progressive form of MS.
There are currently no effective treatments for the progressive forms of MS. The first stage of Associate Professor Brown’s project used immune cells grown in the laboratory to determine whether MIC-1/GDF15 has an effect on reducing the activity of these cells. Results from this stage will then inform the second phase of study, where MIC-1/GDF15 will be tested in an MS-like disease in mice to determine whether it can reduce disease.
‘We are very pleased with the results of this study,’ commented Associate Professor Brown, ‘Since MIC-1/GDF15 is about to enter phase one clinical trials in humans for other diseases – obesity and inflammation – studying its therapeutic potential in laboratory models of MS provides a rare opportunity to rapidly advance experimental results into direct benefits for people with MS’.