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Jun 2014
Predicting MS in children
Oct 2014
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Investigating new treatment options
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2016 Round of Funding
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Feb 2014
Breakthrough study shows great promise

Research Progress Reports

Understanding the repair mechanisms in Multiple Sclerosis

Since 2012, Dr Linda Ly at the University of Sydney has been supported by a Fellowship funded by the Trish Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation. Dr Ly’s research explores the molecules involved in the inflammatory lesions of MS, with the aim of understanding the processes involved in repair in MS and ultimately identifying potential therapeutic strategies that may be targeted to encourage repair and prevent progressive deterioration.      

Symptoms in early MS generally match defined areas of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord which cause loss of the insulating myelin sheath around nerves. Remyelination, the process by which damaged fatty sheaths surrounding nerves are repaired, plays a critical role in remission and recovery from the neurological symptoms of MS. However, there is progressive failure of remyelination with increasing disease duration, contributing to the accumulation of irreversible disability in the secondary progressive phase of MS. There are currently no effective therapies for secondary progressive MS. By studying the molecules involved in brain lesions at different stages of inflammation and repair, Dr Ly is increasing our understanding of the causes of progressive brain deterioration in MS, which may lead towards new approaches for preventing damage.

Dr Ly’s work uses a specialised branch of analysis called proteomics. Proteomics is the study of all the proteins that are active in a particular biological situation. Combined with sophisticated statistical ‘bioinformatics’ techniques, it represents a high-throughput, rapid tool to sift through thousands of proteins to identify the key molecules unique to that situation. Dr Ly has optimised this technique to study the molecular ‘signatures’ and proteins in post-mortem brain tissue from people who had MS. This work uses brain tissue from people who donated their brains to the MS Research Australia Brain Bank, which is based at the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Research Institute and to which the Trish MS Research Foundation contributed. Dr Ly is based within the laboratory of Associate Professor Michael Barnett, an established neurologist and researcher with expertise in MS neuropathology and proteomics.

Over the past two years, Dr Ly has made fantastic progress in analysing the protein signatures of 53 regions of brain tissue. Her analyses have identified 156 proteins that appear to be specific to chronic or late-stage MS lesions. Further analysis has demonstrated that these proteins appear to be important in the normal inflammatory response, as well as in maintaining cell structure and in programming cell death. This suggests that there may be patterns of abnormal protein activity in those brain regions that go on to develop lesions, and that these proteins may be involved in the degeneration of myelin and failure of myelin repair.

In the final year of this project Dr Ly is now working on confirming the role and location of the most important proteins she has identified through proteomics. She will use specialised microscopy techniques to identify which types of lesions and which cell types these proteins are found in. This validation process will enable the identification of the most promising candidate molecules that may be targets for developing potential treatments.

Dr Ly’s work is providing vital insight into the causes of progressive brain deterioration that reduce quality of life for many people with MS, and brings hope that treatments to prevent nerve degeneration and encourage myelin repair may be on the horizon.  

Trish Foundation & MS Research Australia Working together to find a cure for MS
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