A potential therapy for progressive forms of MS

Commencing 2018 the Trish Foundation began supporting a three-year MS Research Australia Project Grant awarded to Associate Professor Peter Crouch who began preclinical trials of a therapy for progressive multiple sclerosis at The University of Melbourne.  Dr Crouch’s Co-investigators are Dr James Hilton, Dr Blaine Roberts, Dr Paul Donnelly and Dr Dominic Hare.

A/Prof Crouch and his research team have generated promising data that helps reveal the role that copper might be playing in the development of progressive MS, and its potential as a therapeutic target.

A/Prof Crouch and his team have analysed myelin changes in laboratory models of MS which has supported the team’s hypothesis of the involvement of copper in progressive MS. Preliminary work has also shown that the changes in copper levels in the laboratory models responds to treatment with a copper-based drug. Their analysis of copper levels of tissue from people with MS also supports these findings and indicates that the laboratory findings may mirror the situation in humans. This is a promising indication that the copper drug could eventually be taken forward for testing in people with MS.

In the second year of the project, A/Prof Crouch and his team delved deeper into the mechanisms underpinning the connection between copper and MS. They analysed the levels of genes involved in copper handling, myelin and the immune response, and determined the distribution of copper in human spinal cord tissue affected by progressive MS. They have also looked at the changes in the levels of these genes in laboratory models of MS and how these changes are impacted by treating the models with the copper drug.

This work strengthens the team’s hypothesis of the role of copper in MS, which is important should the copper drug be considered as a new treatment option for progressive MS. These findings have been presented at national and international conferences and have attracted exciting international collaborations.

A/Prof Crouch’s Project Grant was generously supported by The Woodend Foundation.