The Foundation is pleased to announce the following Incubator Grant has been approved for funding:
What is driving neuromyelitis optica?
Ben Crossett, University of Sydney
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.