DNA methylation profiling on grey matter from the pulvinar thalamus of multiple sclerosis-affected brains

Associate Professor Michael Buckland, Dr Cheryl Li, Ms Maggie Lee, University of Sydney

This research will explore mechanisms associated with the development of progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). This project will use specialised techniques for analysing the ways that genes are switched on and off, such as DNA methylation and gene expression patterns, within grey matter brain tissue from a region called the thalamus. The researchers will compare between tissue from people affected by MS, compared to ‘control’ tissue from people who did not have any neurological disease.

For more information, please visit the MS Research Australia website

The role of Micro RNA in Multiple Sclerosis

Associate Professor Jeannette Lechner-Scott, University of Newcastle; Ms Katherine Sanders, Bond University

It is known that damage to the brain tissue in MS begins in the normal-appearing tissue before progressing further into MS lesions. This project will explore whether changes in the activity or expression of genes within this normal-appearing white matter brain tissue could help to understand or predict the ‘triggers’ of this damage. Any differences might be able to be used as biomarkers - molecules that can measured and correlated with disease progress. Biomarkers are particularly useful, for example, in clinical trials to quickly show whether new therapies are working to halt the disease. The miRNA work may also uncover novel targets for drug development in MS.

For more information, please visit the MS Research Australia website

The role of the locus ceruleus in Multiple Sclerosis

Dr Roger Pamphlett, Professor Peter Lay, Mr Stephen Jew, University of Sydney

A small region in the brain, the locus ceruleus, has been shown to be damaged in MS, and is also the region in the brain that takes up circulating toxins most avidly. This project will test the locus ceruleus in people who had MS to look for the presence of heavy metal toxins, as a preliminary study to determine if heavy metal toxins may play a role in MS onset.

Targets for nerve regeneration in multiple sclerosis

Associate Professor Nicodemus Tedla, Ms Hongyan An, University of NSW

Tissue access facilitated by the Victorian Brain Bank Network

The reasons for the failure of the nervous system to recover after injury in MS are unclear. Understanding the mechanisms that control myelin regeneration of the neurons are crucial in identifying new treatments and potentially a cure for MS. This project will study a particular type of protein called leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptor-A3 (LILRA3) that are known to promote nerve repair. A/Prof Tedla will study roles of these proteins in MS and explore the potential use of these proteins as new treatment strategy aimed at reducing or preventing debilitating neuronal damage in MS.

Multiple sclerosis tissue proteomics

Associate Professor Michael Barnett, Professor John Prineas, Dr Linda Ly and Dr Ben Crossett, University of Sydney

The exact target of the self-immune response in MS is yet to be identified. This project will use advanced proteomics to discover and characterise these protein targets and other important proteins in MS. Proteomics allows scientists to examine all the proteins in a biological situation at once – potentially thousands of proteins in the brain. The project is examining brain tissue taken from differently affected areas of the brain and spinal cord to determine which proteins are involved at the very earliest stages of MS lesion development or lesion expansion. This will eventually lead to more targeted therapies for MS.

For more information, please visit the MS Research Australia website.

Ly L, Barnett MH, Zheng YZ, Gulati T, Prineas JW, Crossett B. (2011) Comprehensive Tissue Processing Strategy for Quantitative Proteomics of Formalin-fixed Multiple Sclerosis Lesions. J Proteome Res., 10 (10): 4855-68.
doi: 10.1021/pr200672n, PMID: 218708544

Identification of the cells responsible for nerve sheath repair in MS

Dr Alison Jennings and Prof William Carroll, University of Western Australia

Optic neuritis is a frequent initial manifestation of MS and is often used as a model for studying the mechanisms of axonal loss and myelination in MS. In contrast to most brain regions the optic nerve has a simple, regular structure and no nerve cell bodies, making it more straightforward to study. In this project, MS-affected optic nerve specimens will be analysed by staining the cells involved with repair of damaged nerve sheaths (remyelination) to find out why this process fails in later phase MS. By understanding more about ‘remyelination failure’ it is hoped that researchers can find a way to prevent it happening and therefore improve patient health outcomes.
Further details are on the MSRA website:

For more information, please visit the MS Research Australia website.