Research Progress Report
Suppressing target genes
implicated in MS
In 2013, Professor Allan Kermode received a
project grant funded by the Trish MS Research Foundation in partnership with
the MS Society of WA and MS Research Australia.
Professor Kermode and his colleagues at the
Western Australian Neuroscience Research Institute are investigating how the
genetic and environmental risk factors for MS may interact to contribute to the
One particular environmental factor that is
associated with risk of MS is infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The
team is investigating the presence and characteristics of EBV infection in a
large population of around 800 people with MS in the Perth Demyelinating
Disease Database (PDDD). They aim to better understand the immune response to
EBV infection, and how this may be influenced in individuals by other factors
that are known to increase risk of MS such as genetic make-up and early life
This project funded by the Trish MS
Research Foundation is part of a much larger comprehensive project that aims to
understand whether these factors influence the clinical characteristics of MS,
the type of MS and the disease activity as seen in MRI scans.
Over the course of the year the team has
been developing and optimising the experimental procedures required to measure
the properties of different types of immune cells in people with MS. A
technique called flow cytometry was used to quantify the levels of many
different types of immune cells including T cells, T helper cells, and B cells.
They will require further time in 2014 to complete the analysis on the immune
cells from people with MS and to correlate this with the genetics of the
Professor Kermode’s work aims to
investigate whether specific immune cells may interact with the proteins found
in different viral strains and how this might relate to mistaken recognition
and immune responses to ‘self’ in different disease stages. Additional analyses
will identify the influence of Vitamin D levels on the balance of immune cell
levels in the blood, and its influence of immune cell activation.
This information will help in the development of a
detailed profile of MS that can be used in disease diagnosis and monitoring.