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Feb 2017
Trish Foundation contributes to first-ever discovery
Jun 2017
Researchers funded by the Trish Foundation making great progress
Dec 2017
Announcement by NHMRC
Jan 2018
2018 Round of Funding Four new Projects announced
Jun 2018
Exciting regrowth of nerve fibres
Jun 2018
Dr Merson secures $1 million from NHMRC
Jun 2018
Findings submitted for publication
Jan 2019
New Research Projects commencing 2019 announced

Incubator Grant

The Foundation is pleased to announce the following Incubator Grant has been approved for funding:

What is driving neuromyelitis optica?


Dr Ben Crossett, University of Sydney         
Associate Professor Michael Barnett, University of Sydney

Dr Ben Crossett and Associate Professor Michael Barnett have received incubator grant support to pursue analysis using state-of-the-art techniques exploring the protein fragments that are displayed on the surface of cells in the body. The immune system recognises and responds to these fragments in order to generate an immune response to foreign molecules, or an autoimmune response. They are thought to play an important role in distinguishing ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ which breaks down in MS and also in neuromyelitis optica (NMO).

Around 70% of people with NMO have antibodies to a ‘self’ protein called aquaporin-4 (AQP4), this is a key distinguishing factor between NMO and MS. However, the remaining 30% have clinical signs of NMO but no AQP4 antibodies. It is not clear whether this group represents a variant of MS, a different subtype of NMO, or an entirely new disease entity.

Dr Crossett’s study will use specialised analysis techniques to compare groups of people with NMO (with or without AQP4 antibodies), and people with MS, to identify any differences in the type or amount of protein fragments that are displayed on cell surfaces. This will help to identify if the cell surface proteins could potentially be important in the failure of the immune system to identify ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ in MS and NMO disorders.

The findings of this study will not only help to increase our understanding of immune system function and how the immune system responds to protein fragments on cell surfaces, but will also help to develop a better understanding of the abnormalities in these autoimmune disorders and how they are defined. This knowledge can then form the basis for better diagnostic markers and potentially the development of novel, targeted therapies.    


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