Associate Professor Jennifer (Jenny) Rodger has received one of the 22 grants from MS Australia announced in a $3 million funding round last week.

The new projects include studies that examine family genetics, the impact of diet on brain health, and the repair and regeneration of cells, which have the potential to lead to significant advances in treatment and prevention, and in finding cures for multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS is the most commonly acquired chronic neurological disease affecting young adults and affects three times more women than men. As yet, there is no cure.

Alarmingly, a recent report discovered that MS is rising at an accelerating rate in Australia, with the number of people diagnosed from 2017 to 2021 increasing sharply by 30% (25,600 to 33,335).

In MS, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the fatty material around the nerves called myelin.

Myelin is important for protecting and insulating nerves so that the electrical messages that the brain sends to the rest of the body travel quickly and efficiently.

Several of the funded research projects will focus on repairing and regenerating the cells damaged by MS, which could lead to a cure.

One of these studies will be led by A/Professor Rodger (The University of Western Australia and the Perron Institute). Professor Kaylene Young (University of Tasmania/Menzies Institute), and PhD candidate Matthew French (UWA and Perron Institute) will also be working on the project.

They have received a $25,000 incubator grant to use repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to explore if it can improve the survival of myelin-producing cells (oligodendrocytes) in the brain.

If successful, this project would allow for treatments that could maximise the survival of oligodendrocytes to rescue brain function in people with MS.

MS Australia CEO Rohan Greenland says the grants, which range from one-year innovative studies to major three-year projects, will ensure that an extensive range of promising research avenues are explored in the pursuit of improving the quality of life for people living with MS.

“MS is extraordinarily complex, and we need to cover much ground to advance our understanding of the disease and to devise better approaches to combat it,” Mr Greenland said.

“We’ll be hitting MS from every direction with these research projects. Our ultimate goal is stopping MS in its tracks.”

Article based on MS Australia media statement.

Photo caption: A/Prof Jenny Rodger and Matthew French in the Perron Institute lab.