Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) have been awarded $200,000 from MS Research Australia to develop new techniques to treat Multiple Sclerosis.
Lead researcher Dr Anne Bruestle from The John Curtin School of Medical Research said she was thrilled to be awarded her first major grant as a young new group leader.
“As an early career researcher, it is great to have my work recognised by MS Research Australia, continue to do a job that I love,” Dr Bruestle said.
“The funding will allow myself and co-investigators Professor Christopher Parish and clinician Dr Rajat Lahoria to work on finding new ways we hope that one day will treat those living with the disease.”
Multiple Sclerosis costs Australia more than $1 billion per year and 23,000 Australians are living with the disease.
The new project will look at how different immune cells interact with neutrophils, a type of immune cell that can combat infection by expelling their DNA to kill bacteria.
The process known as neutrophil extracellular traps or NETs forms an important part of the body’s defence against infection. NETs can also mistakenly kill the body’s own cells, leading to a variety of diseases.
“The role of both neutrophils and their NETs is so far not clearly understood in the context of MS and its laboratory models,” she said.
Dr Bruestle said her team will look at how NETs induce neuronal inflammation and how new drugs could inhibit the process.
“The results we’ve seen are promising because the treatment is already known to have minimal side effects and is inexpensive to manufacture,” she said.
The final stage of the project aim is to take the laboratory findings to patients and examine the level of neutrophils and NETs in the blood of people with MS.
“The results of this study will underpin any future clinical trials of a treatment for MS based on NETs,” she said.