New MS Research Australia incubator grant awarded

Worldwide, over 2.5 million people suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS). Multiple sclerosis means “scar tissue in multiple areas” and affects the central nervous system (CNS). In the CNS, nerve fibres are surrounded by a protective myelin sheath. Myelin helps the nerves conduct electrical signals quickly and efficiently. In MS, the myelin sheath disappears in multiple areas, leaving a scar, or sclerosis.

In the past two decades several therapeutic options have become available for people living with MS. However, in individuals it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of a given treatment because of the lack of objective measures that define efficacy.

Recently, a number of candidate biomarkers have emerged that can be used to measure ongoing treatment response. Currently there are a lot of promising treatments for the disease that are allowing people with MS to have a better quality of life than they had before.

Dr Marzena Pedrini, a Senior Medical Scientific Officer in the Perron Institute Demyelinating Diseases Research group, was recently awarded a $13,000 incubator grant from MS Research Australia, to determine whether there are markers in the blood which could indicate if people incurred clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) prior to their diagnosis of MS and if their medication is effective

Dr Pedrini is investigating the level of a protein in the blood known as neurofilament light chain. This protein is normally found inside nerve cells where it acts as a skeleton for the cells, but as nerve cells die this protein is released into the body and it is thought to be a measure of damage that is occurring in the brain.

This study is looking to see if people with the earliest phase of MS, CIS, may have this protein at higher levels than people without MS and whether the levels change in response to treatment. This would help to identify people who could benefit from an earlier treatment for their CIS and provide more therapeutic options for people prior to their onset of MS.

Co-Investigators

  • Clinical Professor Allan Kermode, Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science
  • Clinical Professor William Carroll, Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science
  • Professor Prue Hart, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research