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Centenary Institute - Medical Research
Centenary Institute - Medical Research

Multiple sclerosis drug research funded

Associate Professor Anthony Don, Head of the Lipid Metabolism and Neurochemistry Laboratory at the Centenary Institute has received a funding grant of $115,000 from MS Research Australia to help investigate and develop drugs that can better treat multiple sclerosis (MS).

A debilitating, chronic neurodegenerative disease, MS affects approximately two million people world-wide including over 25,000 Australians. It is a classical inflammatory disease, caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking and depleting myelin, the fatty substance that insulates and protects nerve cells in the central nervous system.

“Current treatments for MS are limited to immunosuppressive drugs that suppress autoimmunity and inflammation,” said Associate Professor Don.

“There is a pressing need for a new approach–for an effective drug that can both protect existing myelin and stimulate myelin repair, as this will open up the possibility for functional recovery in people with MS.”

In his project, Associate Professor Don will be investigating a group of drugs known as sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor agonists (S1Ps) which mimic the signals produced by the naturally occurring hormone-like molecule sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) in the body.

“Our current research suggests that S1P is essential in myelin regeneration. We will be determining if these S1P enhancing drugs are indeed myelin protective, if they promote the formation of myelin and the processes by which this may happen.”

Associate Professor Don is appreciative of the funding from MS Research Australia.

“This grant supports a project operating at the very forefront of multiple sclerosis research and that could lead to the development of a new therapeutic approach to improve outcomes for people with MS.”

Dr Julia Morahan, Head of Research, MS Research Australia said, “This innovative research proposal addresses the urgent need for therapies to stimulate myelin repair in MS. While remyelination or myelin repair is important for all types of MS, it is extremely important in tackling the lack of treatment options for those people with progressive MS. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of this study.”

Prestigious grants success for Centenary Institute researchers

World-leading research into sudden cardiac death (SCD) in young people and multiple sclerosis has been boosted with two Centenary Institute researchers successfully securing prestigious Ideas Grants in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding.

Professor Christopher Semsarian AM, Head of the Centenary Institute’s Agnes Ginges Centre for Molecular Cardiology, has received funding of $1.17 million for a three year study into the role of ‘concealed cardiomyopathies’ (diseases of the heart muscle) and SCD in the young (those people aged 35 years and under).

He believes that a significant proportion of unexplained sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and SCD in the young is due to underlying genetic conditions, representing a preclinical concealed phase of disease.

“I hope to be able to better identify the precise genetic causes of SCD and SCA, with a focus on cardiomyopathy genes, using innovative state-of-the-art genomic technologies. This will enable more targeted clinical and genetic evaluation of at-risk families, resulting in earlier diagnosis of vulnerable family relatives, and appropriate initiation of treatment and prevention strategies. The ultimate goal is to prevent serious cardiac events and SCD in the young,” said Professor Semsarian.

Associate Professor Anthony Don, Head of the Lipid Metabolism and Neurochemistry Laboratory at the Centenary Institute has received funding of $925,000 for a four year study investigating drug-development opportunities for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). The disease is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking and depleting myelin, the fatty substance that insulates neurons in the nervous system.

“While we can effectively arrest the inflammatory component in many people with MS, the goal of functional recovery is hindered by our inability to stimulate myelin repair. This is the current frontier of MS research,” said Associate Professor Don.

“I’ll be exploring how the loss of certain key biochemical signals promotes myelin loss in MS, and how drugs that restore those signals may be used to protect and regenerate myelin in people with this disease.”

Professor Mathew Vadas AO, Executive Director at the Centenary Institute, welcomed the announcement.

“NHMRC Ideas Grants are highly competitive and support innovative health and medical research projects. This is an outstanding result for two superb projects. I look forward to further grant success from Institute researchers in future rounds.”