Progress

Find out about the great progress our researchers are making in the battle against MS

PrevANZ Vitamin D Prevention Trial Update – September 2020

Potential game-changer

The Trish MS Research Foundation is proud and honoured to be contributing to the ground-breaking work of Dr Steven Petratos at Monash University.

The Foundation first funded Dr Petratos’ research in our inaugural round of funding in 2002.  Dr Petratos was the only Australian researcher to receive funding in the International Progressive MS Alliance’s inaugural round of funding.  The Trish Foundation funded a continuation of this research, providing funding to Dr Petratos in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

In January this year, we were thrilled to announce the Research Projects we are funding commencing 2020.  A three-year Trish Translational Research Grant was awarded to Dr Steven Petratos, following the stringent Grant Review Process.

Monash researchers have repurposed an existing drug to trick cells in an animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS) to remyelinate their central nervous system (CNS). Demyelination, or stripping nerve cells of their protective sheath, is a hallmark of the disease.

By repurposing the drug, called DITPA, the researchers led by Dr Steven Petratos, from the Monash University Department of Neuroscience, are set to conduct a large study into a drug that may one day help halt the progression of MS with clinical trials expected to start within three years.

DITPA’s effects, and the mechanism that allows it to work, were found serendipitously by Dr Petratos’ team during research into a group of molecules affecting the development of human brain cells called oligodendrocytes, which play an important role in interacting with, supporting and protecting nerve fibres. These cells are mistakenly targeted by the immune system during ‘attacks’ or ‘flair-ups’ in MS.

DITPA was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in clinical trials to treat a rare disorder called Allan-Herndon-Dudley syndrome (AHDS), which severely affects movement, and has been used in larger trials for cardiac problems.

The molecule has the advantage of being able to cross the blood-brain barrier to target affected cells in the brain. To date one of the biggest barriers for potential treatment of MS have been their inability to cross the blood-brain barrier into the CNS. DITPA can do this, according to Dr Petratos.

Dr Petratos has recently been awarded a patent on the drug. He is also in discussions with a major pharmaceutical company to develop the drug for trials in MS patients.

Dr Petratos said: “The effect of the drug that we’ve identified may have a significant benefit in changing the course of MS progression primarily from the aspect of protection of the central nervous system as well as enhancing repair.”

“This is a potential game-changer for MS patients in the future as there is only one successful trial to date which has reported effective outcomes of limiting MS progression.”

MS affects approximately 2.5 million people worldwide, and over 25,000 in Australia. Currently, the best therapies can only limit relapses in patients and there is no cure.

The drug was found – in both animal models and human cell culture experiments– to prompt oligodendrocytes to remyelinate the CNS that had been affected by the disease. If successful, this exciting study may have immediate implications for individuals living MS, providing them with an alternative option of treatment if their disease were to worsen with time.