multiple sclerosis: Controlling Multiple Sclerosis by promoting nerve regeneration


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a globally prevalent disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that commonly results in substantial disability in younger patients during their working lives. MS affects almost 20,000 Australians and has a high economic burden to both the patient and society, with total direct and indirect costs to Australia of two billion dollars per annum. MS is caused by damage to the myelin sheath, the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells. When this nerve covering is damaged, nerve impulses are slowed down or stopped.
Current therapies are only partially effective, and make little, if any, impact upon the progressive phase of the illness. Using cutting edge proteomics (a technique that will identify all proteins associated with areas of inflammation in MS tissue) and advanced microscopy technologies, this project will identify targets for next-generation therapies that preserve and restore neurological function by promoting previously untargeted endogenous repair mechanisms.

The project

We have access to a unique resource of donated MS brains and in collaboration with the Sydney University Proteome Research Unit we will apply ‘shotgun proteomics’ techniques to an unparalleled archive to derive protein ‘signatures’ in the tissue. The comparison of these protein profiles will provide the basis for subsequent studies using advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques. This work is an international “first” - only our group has the capacity to undertake this study and it builds on recognised outstanding neuropathological strengths at the University of Sydney, which have led to a series of highly influential and widely cited publications on MS over the last five years.


Our results will provide a template for the discovery of novel treatments that for the first time prevent, and perhaps reverse, disease progression. We expect datasets generated by this work to be used to formulate such treatments, potentially in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry. Ultimately, the proposed work will reduce the burden of MS-related disability for the many Australians who suffer with the disease, usually in the prime of their lives.


Fundraising target: $400,000 (three years)

Project leader: Dr Michael Barnett, Senior Lecturer in Neurology, Sydney Medical School, the University of Sydney.

Image: Brain MRI from a patient with MS.
Left: Multiple lesions or ‘plaques’ are present in the white matter.
Right: One lesion enhances following an injection of the contrast agent, gadolinium (arrowhead), indicating acute inflammation. Others appear as ‘black holes’ (arrows), indicating permanent destruction of nerve fibres.