Dr Michael Friedrich and Professor Roger Truscott. Photo by Paul Jones.
What is the next era of treatments for MS?
IHMRI is partnering with MS Limited to help raise funds and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects 25,000 Australians.
There is no cure for MS and the reason people develop it is unknown.
Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women affected than men.
At IHMRI research is continuing into the cause of MS to help find better treatments for those impacted by the disease.
Professor Roger Truscott and Dr Michael Friedrich have been studying the changes in the Myelin of MS patients.
Myelin acts as an electrical insulator allowing much greater speed in the conduction of nerve impulses from your spinal cord to your brain.
Myelin is made up of proteins and lipids.
The major protein is called myelin basic protein and the researchers discovered that it is a long-lived protein, like those found in the eye lens.
Over time this protein breaks down and this deterioration has been implicated in the symptoms of MS.
In patients with MS the body begins to attack the myelin causing muscle spasms and problems with, coordination, balance and visibility.
“Myelin is a long-lived protein (meaning you are born with and it ages with you). For populations more prone to MS the Myelin starts to break down in a more dramatic way than people not as prone to the disease and the brain may respond by attacking it because it appears foreign. It is not known what triggers this immune response,” said Dr Friedrich.
To conduct their research Professor Truscott and Dr Friedrich use tissue samples from donated brains from people with and without MS.
“We can distinguish the myelin basic protein in MS patients from people who do not have MS,” Professor Truscott said.
“The structure of the myelin basic protein from MS patients had two regions where specific changes have accumulated. We hypothesize, based on the novel structures formed here, that these two regions provoke an immune response,” he added.
Professor Truscott says further research is needed to identify the cause of MS and help researchers work towards preventing the disease.
“We have a definite MS target. In the future, drugs could be designed to bind specifically to these two regions on MBP and thus potentially stop the autoimmune response,” he said.
The findings of Professor Truscott and Dr Friedrich have recently been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Medicine. Read the full article.
This research was partly funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator
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