Murdoch researchers share in over $1.8m in funding to fight MS

March 15, 2016

Professor Wilton and Dr Veedu from Murdoch University’s Centre for Comparative Genomics

Professor Wilton and Dr Veedu from Murdoch University’s Centre for Comparative Genomics

Two researchers, Professor Steve Wilton and Dr Rakesh Veedu from Murdoch University’s Centre for Comparative Genomics were among the 24 recipients who shared in $1.834 million in new research funding awarded by MS Research Australia.

Professor Wilton received a project grant for $50,000 and will investigate a new method to suppress target genes as a treatment option for multiple sclerosis (MS). Dr Veedu will use his $25,000 incubator grant to develop a new method for drug delivery to improve side effect profiles of MS treatments.

MS is a life-long chronic inflammatory and degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects 23,000 Australians and more than two million worldwide. There is currently no cure for MS.

Professor Wilton’s project aims to validate alternative drugs to suppress inflammation.

“Patients with MS are currently prescribed with disease modifying drugs to reduce inflammation in the central nervous system. However the side effects associated with these drugs raises safety concerns,” he said.

“In addition to inflammation, patients with MS also suffer neuronal damage. Although there are disease-modifying drugs that modulate the immune system, these do not reverse the damage that has occurred in the brain and spinal cord.

“We must find methods to promote the restoration of nerve function in these areas.”

Dr Rakesh said the key goal of modern MS drug development is to design agents that selectively deliver the therapeutic cargo to relevant disease-specific sites within the body, to maximise efficacy and minimise toxicity and adverse side effects.

“Current treatment include drugs which have been shown to reduce relapse rates, however there is still a number of unresolved issues associated with these agents including long-term side effects,” he said.

“This project will develop highly innovative chemically-modified DNA enzymes for target specific inhibition of cell receptors and deliver specifically to T-cells using chemically-modified agents for tackling inflammation in MS.

“This method will be a safer approach to deliver target specific therapy towards the treatment of MS.

“Our technology is highly unique from the existing agents in terms of its mechanism, and the application of DNA enzymes has not been reported.”

MS Research Australia CEO Dr Matthew Miles said the organisation was pleased to be able to award competitive, peer-reviewed grants such as this to Murdoch University researchers. These grants received funding support from the MS Society of WA working in partnership with MS Research Australia.

“These important projects are working towards better treatments for people living with MS in Australia and around the world,” he said.

MS Research Australia is a mission-driven national organisation that is dedicated to finding preventative strategies, better treatments, and cures for MS.

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