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Jun 2014
Predicting MS in children
Oct 2014
Three new Incubator Grants announced
Dec 2014
2015 Funding announced
Mar 2015
Investigating new treatment options
Oct 2015
Progress in MS Research Conference
Feb 2016
2016 Round of Funding
Feb 2014
New projects being funded
Feb 2014
Breakthrough study shows great promise

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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