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Multiple Sclerosis

We strive to improve the lives of people with multiple sclerosis

Our Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research group is developing and trialling treatments, as well as helping to prevent and better manage MS. Through innovative therapies and lab-based programs, we are improving the lives of people with MS.

MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system where nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord become damaged, disrupting the flow of information between the brain and body.

More than 23,000 people in Australia are affected by multiple sclerosis. MS is most often diagnosed in early adulthood and can therefore dramatically impact the social and economic participation of people affected. This gives great urgency to understanding more about the cause, care and possible cure of the disease.

MS clinical research

The Brain and Mind Centre hosts a dedicated Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Trials Unit, providing patients with access to treatment trials of the latest therapies for MS. The unit is directed by Associate Professor Michael Barnett.

The MS Clinical Trials Unit conducts a variety of studies, ranging from observational clinical research through to Phase 2 and Phase 3 treatment trials. To express your interest in participating in MS clinical trials, please contact Dr Marinda Taha. We encourage you to discuss your potential participation in MS treatment trials with your treating neurologist first.

The Brain and Mind Centre MS Clinic is the largest multiple sclerosis clinic in New South Wales. We are a major contributor to MSBASE, the world’s largest clinical registry that contains almost 50,000 patient datasets. MSBASE has generated cutting edge clinical outcomes research that has been published in numerous top-tier neurology and research journals. 

Our neuroimaging researchers are dedicated to improving the lives of patients with MS. We use the latest technologies to provide novel insights into MS pathogenesis and to develop non-invasive biomarkers of the disease. Together with the Sydney Neuroimaging Analysis Centre (SNAC), our work has been rapidly translated into MS clinical trials and clinical practice.

We share infrastructure and expertise with SNAC, an ultramodern facility located within the Brain and Mind Centre that uniquely integrates in-house neuro-imaging research with a dedicated, regulatory-compliant commercial image analysis facility for Phase 2, 3 and 4 clinical research trials.

To get involved and for more information, please contact Dr Marinda Taha.

Cortical structure and function in MS

The project involves conducting a comprehensive structure-function analysis of changes in the cerebral cortex in patients with MS over two years. The study uses advanced imaging analysis techniques, combined with novel electrophysiological measures, to inform the development of biomarkers in future MS clinical trials. Principal Investigators: M Barnett, M Kiernan.

Visual function in MS

In this study, we are assessing changes in the visual pathways in MS with a battery of clinical, imaging and electrophysiological (mfVEP) measures over two years. The study is specifically designed to inform the development of biomarkers of axonal and myelin integrity, which will critically determine the role of emerging pro-reparative therapies for MS. Principal Investigators: M Barnett, A Klistorner.

Normative volumetric data in MS

In this study, we are exploring the utility of large normative datasets as a reference for assessing brain atrophy in patients with MS. The study will generate predictive algorithms based upon a single MRI scan at the time of diagnosis. Principal Investigators: M Barnett, T Wang.

In 2017, the Brain and Mind Centre’s MS Clinic and Neuroimaging Research Group will participate in the largest, prospective, longitudinal MS cohort study ever undertaken. Funded by Biogen, the study seeks to develop MRI biomarkers of subclinical disease progression in MS. The study is a collaborative research project spanning five national centres (Brain and Mind Centre, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Box Hill Hospital, Royal Newcastle Hospital, Royal Hobart Hospital). All (central) neuroimaging analysis will be performed in the Brain and Mind Centre’s Sydney Neuroimaging Analysis Centre imaging laboratories. Principal Investigators: M Barnett, H Butzkueven, T Kalincik, T Kilpatrick, J Lechner-Scott, Bruce Taylor.

This ambitious project, led by Brain and Mind Centre neuroimaging researchers, started in February 2017. We plan to build infrastructure for a Brain and Mind Centre-wide image data-sharing platform that will also host a number of integrated, automated analysis pipelines. Based on XNAT technology, this platform will serve as a pilot repository for the broader University of Sydney. Watch this space.

Serum biomarker research

We are investigating novel serum biomarkers to diagnose and monitor MS. Exosomes are small packages released by many cells in the body, including brain cells. Their outer membrane provides a protective environment and exosomes are full of RNA and DNA. Large numbers of exosomes circulate in the blood, including exosomes from the brain.

We are isolating exosomes from patients’ blood and profiling their RNA using massively parallel sequencing to see if we can find signatures of disease from a simple blood test. Our initial results are very promising – we can distinguish people who have MS from people who don’t and a specific RNA signature can reliably distinguish what sort of MS a person has. Encouraged by these results, we are now undertaking a much larger study of these potential MS biomarkers. We are monitoring patients over time to see if we can predict when their MS is active and how effective a certain treatment is.

Peripheral immuno-phenotyping

Dr Mahtab Ghadiri is currently completing her work on T-cell and B-cell immunophenotyping in MS. Her research provides detailed insights into the immune system and its regulation in MS, as well as how the immune system responds to disease-modifying therapies.

Dr Ghadiri is the inaugural recipient of the Brain and Mind Centre McGill University Fellowship. Her work in this field began under the supervision of Dr Jack Antel and Dr Amit Bar-Or in Canada as well as Associate Professors Michael Barnett and Stephen Reddel at the Brain and Mind Centre.

The MS Research Australia Brain Bank coordinates the collection, storage and use of human post-mortem tissue from people with MS to use in research across Australia and internationally. Based at the Brain and Mind Centre, the MS Research Australia Brain Bank is a collaborative undertaking of MS Research Australia, the Brain and Mind Centre and the Sydney Local Health District.

The MS Research Australia Brain Bank is co-directed by Associate Professors Michael Barnett and Michael Buckland and is managed by Dr Antony Harding, a pioneer in bio-banking in Australia. More information can be found on the MS Research Australia Brain Bank website.