US offers praise and funds of US $1 million to Australian MS researchers

18 March, 2011

The quality of Australian science has been given high recognition with the leading US research and lobby group for multiple sclerosis investing a million dollars of extra funding in our researchers.

The National MS Society (NMSS), has awarded this significant amount to two MS researchers whose work they consider will deliver results in fighting the debilitating disease. These funds amount to nearly half those committed by our National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to new MS research in Australia in 2011, and provide a welcome addition to another $3.1mill of community support for this vital research via MS Research Australia.

The NMSS maintains that its constituents, people with MS in the US, are keen for it to support the best research, wherever in the world it is conducted.
Dr Steven Petratos – pictured above

Professor Trevor Kilpatrick of Florey Neuroscience Institutes and the University of Melbourne has received just over half a million dollars to continue his study into Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) signaling in MS. This is a growth factor that is found in the central nervous system and is known to enhance myelination in laboratory experiments.

Along with his colleagues Dr Simon Murray and Dr Junhua Xiao, Professor Kilpatrick (pictured below) will use this funding to develop genetic approaches to discover exactly how BDNF exerts this positive action on myelination. The project builds on work previously funded by MS Research Australia, the research arm of MS Australia. The research is a crucial stepping stone in further understanding how these responses might eventually be targeted for therapeutic benefit. Professor Kilpatrick was also awarded the 2010 Stephen C. Reingold Award for the most outstanding research proposal submitted to NMSS in 2010.

Prof Trevor Kilpatrick – pictured above

Dr Patricia O’Looney, Vice-President of Biomedical Research at NMSS said, ‘These grants to Australian researchers are part of a US $17.5 million commitment this year to support the best science investigations aimed at stopping MS, restoring function that has been lost, and ending MS forever.’ The NMSS points out they support the best research that offers results, regardless of the country in which it is conducted.

Another leading Australian MS researcher, Dr Steven Petratos, has also been awarded a half million dollars for research into the molecular mechanisms behind axonal degeneration in MS. His research will be conducted at the Health and Innovation Research Institute at RMIT University in Victoria.

The symptoms of MS are caused by destruction of the myelin sheath that insulates nerve fibres by the immune system and Dr Petratos, will be investigating damage to the nerve fibres, or axons, that may occur prior to myelin damage. Damage to the nerve fibres occurs in the very early stages of MS and there is evidence that this damage is a major cause of the neurological symptoms of MS. Dr Petratos will investigate ways to block the molecules which cause axon degeneration with the hope that the research will lead to novel treatments that may limit neurological decline in MS.

This research will be conducted in collaboration with Dr Christopher Siatskas of Monash University.
Dr Petratos’ collaborator Siatskas is currently being funded by MS Research Australia.

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