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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

Progress report – Dr Ben Emery

Following the award of a two year project grant in 2010, funded by the Trish Foundation, Dr Ben Emery and his team have been making excellent progress in their investigations of the mechanisms that control myelination in the central nervous system (CNS).  

Myelin is the insulating sheath that surrounds nerve fibres and allows the effective transmission of nerve signals. Loss of myelin and death of oligodendrocytes, the cells that make myelin in the CNS, are key features in MS. The CNS does show some ability to generate new oligodendrocytes and remyelinate in MS, however, the process is often incomplete, contributing to the ongoing loss of function. Identifying the genes that promote myelination has great potential to lead to therapeutic strategies to improve myelin repair in MS.  

Dr Emery's team had previously discovered a gene (GM98, also known as Myelin Gene Regulatory Factor) that is usually switched on in oligodendrocytes at the time they are generating myelin. The team has now shown that in mice lacking this gene, the oligodendrocytes are unable to form myelin, leading to severe neurological dysfunction. Conversely, turning this gene on appears to promote myelination. "We are really excited by these results", said Dr Emery, "as they suggest we have identified a major regulator of myelination during development."  

Dr Emery is now studying the mechanisms by which this gene controls the myelination process, and whether it also regulates remyelination following a demyelinating injury. Dr Emery said, "Our preliminary results indicate that the gene acts as a molecular switch to control myelination in conjunction with other regulators already present within oligodendrocytes.” The gene is very active during successful remyelination and the team is currently investigating if increasing its activity in mice with an experimental version of MS can increase the efficiency of myelin repair.  

Dr Emery’s work has generated two scientific papers to date and he has also been successful in obtaining a major grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council to expand this research.

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