Protecting the Brain - MS Research Australia

Protecting the Brain

Dr Kaylene Young and Professor Bruce Taylor

Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania

| A cure via repair and regeneration | Better treatments | Epidemiology | Genetics | Neurobiology | Fellowship | 2017 | Investigator Led Research |
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Summary

In 2017, with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation, MS Research Australia introduced a new ‘paired’ Fellowship to enable a senior research fellow and a clinician to work together to ‘fast-track’ research breakthroughs and improve outcomes for people living with MS.

The inaugural recipients of the MS Research Australia-Macquarie Group Foundation Paired Fellowship are neuroscientist Dr Kaylene Young and neurologist Professor Bruce Taylor from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Hobart, Tasmania.

In MS, the central nervous system (CNS) is damaged. Current therapies prevent this damage occurring in the first place, but do not repair the damage already caused in MS. Dr Kaylene Young and Professor Bruce Taylor, are working towards new discoveries that may provide treatments to protect and repair the nervous system.

In his clinical research, Professor Taylor has previously discovered a genetic variation that is linked with the development of MS. Using a laboratory model, Dr Young aims to determine how this gene normally functions, and what role it plays in cells. They aim to identify the molecules that this gene interacts with to see if they can find any existing drugs that target it to have an effect on cells isolated from people with MS. Such therapies could protect against MS related injury.

In her laboratory research, Dr Young has found that a form of non-invasive magnetic stimulation can promote myelin growth in the CNS in mice. Dr Young will determine if this magnetic stimulation can also induce myelin growth and repair in laboratory models of MS. Following this, Dr Young will work with Professor Taylor in clinical trials to determine if this treatment is safe for people with MS, and if the treatment is likely to be effective for all people with MS, or for people with specific MS lesions.

Together the pair will draw in other scientist and clinicians to bridge the gap between laboratory findings and clinical practice and vice versa. They will work with their colleagues to establish and evaluate the MS Translation Centre at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Tasmania. The Centre aims to progress discoveries along the translational pipeline to accelerate the delivery of new interventions to improve the lives of people with MS.

Progress to Date

In the first six months of their Paired Fellowship Dr Young and Professor Taylor have made progress on all the aims of their work.

Dr Young has commenced cellular studies to determine the role of the genetic changes identified in the families with MS. Skin biopsies have been collected from the family members and these are being used to make specific cells that can be studied in a dish in the laboratory. The cells will allow Dr Young and Professor Taylor to track the changes in different cell types that occur due to the identified genetic variation. New collaborations, a key goal of the Paired Fellowship, have also been formed with Associate Professor Alice Pebay from the University of Melbourne and Professor Alex Hewitt from the University of Tasmania to assist with the cellular experiments.

The extensive planning and design of the clinical trial of non-invasive magnetic stimulation in people with MS is complete. The trial will aim to determine if this form of therapy is safe for people with MS and potentially effective at increasing the brain’s ability to repair myelin in MS. Dr Young and Professor Taylor have recruited a new PhD student to work on the clinical trial and formed a new scientific collaboration with Dr Mark Hinder from the Department of Psychology, University of Tasmania to provide his expertise on transcranial stimulation in humans. Recruitment of participants for the trial will begin in 2018.

Dr Young and Professor Taylor have now established the MS Translation Centre at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Tasmania, which aims to accelerate discoveries along the translational pipeline to deliver new interventions for people with MS. New students and staff have been recruited to join the Centre in 2018, and a Centre Manager and Communications Coordinator has been hired.

Dr Young and Professor Taylor have secured an impressive ten further grants to put towards these projects since being awarded the Paired Fellowship. These grants are a mix of government and philanthropic funding and total over $1.97 million.

Updated: 20 April 2018

Updated: 08 November, 2017

Investigator

Grant Awarded

  • MS Research Australia-Macquarie Group Foundation Paired Fellowship

Total Funding

  • $750,000

Duration

  • 3 years over 2017 – 2019

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