The role of Vitamin D related
genes in MS
Investigator Dr Lawrence Ong, The Westmead
Institute for Medical Research
Associate Professor David Booth,
The Westmead Institute for Medical Research
Betty Cuthbert Postgraduate
Scholarship co-funded by MS Research Australia/ National Health and
Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
Total award $122,714 over
2016-2018 (50% funded by the NHMRC)
MS Research Australia contribution provided with full funding support from the Trish Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation.
The Trish Foundation is honoured to be co-funding this important Research Project with the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Blood levels of Vitamin D are known to be
associated with MS disease activity. We also know that several genes which are
involved in activating Vitamin D are also involved in susceptibility to the
disease. Vitamin D3 levels appear to predict clinical progress in multiple
sclerosis. The reasons for this are unclear, but may be linked to the effect of
the Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) on a subset of immune cells.
Dr Ong’s PhD project aims to determine the
mechanisms by which these genes make individuals more or less prone to
developing multiple sclerosis. Specifically, this project aims to identify key
genes which are regulated by the Vitamin D receptor, by using specific gene
sequencing technologies combined with knowledge of the genes which confer risk
of developing MS. Dr Ong will first study the relationship between Vitamin D
receptor activity and the growth and development of immune messenger cells called
dendritic cells. Next, Dr Ong will identify the key genes that are influenced
by the Vitamin D receptor activity and how the gene activity is altered in
response to Vitamin D. This work may ultimately help to identify the molecular
pathways that cause MS and potential treatment strategies.
This project is innovative in its aim to identify
the specific molecular pathways that are regulated by the Vitamin D receptor
using state-of-the-art gene sequencing technologies. Identification of these
pathways may provide a target for directed therapy for treatment or prevention
of MS in susceptible individuals. It is hoped that by understanding the
molecular targets of the Vitamin D receptor, that targeted therapies may be
developed for the treatment of MS.