MS results from the damage and loss of myelin, the conductive layer around nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin can be repaired, but this process is incomplete and failure of this repair is thought to underlie conversion to secondary progressive MS. During progressive phases of MS, the nerve fibre itself is directly damaged and currently this is impossible to reverse, leading to the accumulation of disability.
Dr Merson’s team have shown that increasing the electrical activity of nerve fibres in brain tissue that is not affected by MS enhances the laying down of myelin on these nerve fibres. Other research has recently shown that blocking electrical activity in lesions within the MS brain reduces the brain’s ability to repair the lost myelin. In this project Dr Merson will test whether electrical activity within nerve cells alters the ability of myelin to be repaired in laboratory models of MS.
Determining new ways to enhance repair in the MS brain will hopefully lead to new therapeutic options for the progressive phase of MS in the future.
In the first year of this project, Dr Merson has completed the experiments to increase the electrical activity in nerve cells in laboratory models of MS. Dr Merson achieved this by introducing a specific protein to the nerve cells and administrating a drug, this combination in turn increases the number of electrical impulses the nerve cells produce. The drug is administered for a period of two weeks from the time that the myelin repair normally begins. This will allow Dr Merson to determine whether the increased electrical activity resulted in more efficient myelin repair. The brain tissue that had the increased electrical activity will now be compared to unstimulated tissue under the microscope.
This grant has also contributed to Dr Merson successfully securing over $1 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council to expand this work.
Updated: 20 April 2018
Updated: 01 March, 2017