About this episode – Developing a molecule to treat MS
In this episode we speak to Associate Professor Tony Hughes at The University of Melbourne, who is carrying out a research project looking at whether a small molecule he has developed could be used to potentially treat MS. The small molecule is based on one of the body’s own molecules called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and he has taken this large protein, made a small fragment of it and chemically constrained it to make a mini version.
Associate Professor Hughes explains how he is taking this small molecule fragment and investigating whether it can talk to the cells in the damaged nervous system. The aim is to see whether the molecule fragment can encourage remyelination and put an insulating sheath back on the nerve cells, that is lost as part of the disease of MS.
The small molecule appears to reverse the loss of myelin in a laboratory model of MS. As many of the symptoms of MS come about because of the loss of myelin, if it is possible to replace the insulating sheath (which this compound can do in the laboratory model), then in principle it may be possible to get the nerve cells to fire normally again, and therefore negate many of the symptoms of MS.
This work is exciting but it is important to note that this is still pre-clinical work. It often takes about 10 years to translate a compound from a laboratory finding into a drug that could be used to treat MS in humans.
About Associate Professor Tony Hughes
Associate Professor Tony Hughes is a researcher based at The University of Melbourne who has led various research projects funded by MS Research Australia.
Find out more on his current project: ‘Designing new drugs to treat MS‘.
Find out more on his previous project: ‘Peptide drugs to treat MS‘.
What is the Research Report video series?
MS Research Australia’s Research Report is a series dedicated to exploring and explaining research happening into MS in Australia and around the world.