Understanding relapse free times in MS - MS Research Australia

Understanding relapse free times in MS

Professor Georges Grau

University of Sydney, NSW

| Better treatments | Immunology | Project | 2018 | Investigator Led Research |


MS is the result of the immune system attacking parts of the brain and spinal cord. Many current treatments suppress the immune system, and need to be administered on an ongoing basis. Some of the newer treatments achieve long term disease suppression after only a few doses. In this Project Grant Professor Georges Grau aims to determine why this is.

Professor Grau and others will investigate the blood of people with MS that have received a range of therapies, and those without MS. His team will determine how some treatment agents are able to induce changes to our immune system after only a few doses.

There are a number of different cells that make up our immune systems. These experiments aim to determine which immune cells and how many cells of each type are present in the blood of people with MS when they are experiencing a time of long term remission. Specifically, these tests will look closely at immune cells called T regulatory cells or Tregs, and B regulatory cells or Bregs. These cells are partially responsible for dampening down an immune response.

This work has implications for both relapsing remitting and progressive MS. If we are able to determine which cells are present at times of remission, future therapies may be designed that promote the growth of these types of cells.


Progress to Date

Professor Grau and his colleagues have so far looked at the different types of immune cells in people with active MS, and will compare them to people without MS. The team is particularly keen to profile immune cells that have a role in reducing a potentially harmful immune response – those known as B regulatory cells. They are also very interested in people with MS who have been successfully treated with a disease modifying therapy and comparing them to people with MS who are not on a treatment.

They have investigated and quantified different cell types in the blood using a new technique known as mass cytometry. The initial work in this study has focused on recruiting people with MS and collecting and processing cell samples. Alongside this, they have been custom designing and developing screening panels that will allow them to identify and classify the immune cells present in the blood of people with MS.

So far they have designed four different panels using over 100 antibodies each identifying a unique protein. This will allow Professor Grau and his team to get an accurate snapshot of the immune cells present in these groups of people with MS and hopefully identify differences that could be used to develop new treatments that promote this type of immune cell profile in MS.

Updated: 31 March 2019

Updated: 05 January, 2018



  • Professor Simon Hawke, University of Sydney, NSW
  • Associate Professor Scott Byrne, University of Sydney, NSW
  • Dr Anna Zinger, University of Sydney, NSW
  • Associate Professor Michael Barnett, University of Sydney, NSW
  • Associate Professor Suzanne Hodgkinson, University of Sydney, NSW

Grant Awarded

  • Project Grant

Total Funding

  • $225,000


  • 3 years over 2018 - 2020

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