Findings attract exciting international collaborations

The Trish Foundation is supporting a three-year MS Research Australia Project Grant awarded to A/Prof Peter Crouch who will begin 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.

Unfortunately, there are very limited treatment options for people with the progressive forms of disease. The development of treatments for progressive MS is hampered by the current lack of understanding of the biochemical mechanisms that differentiate relapsing-remitting MS from the progressive forms. A/Prof Crouch has discovered that copper which is normally found in the body, is not distributed normally in the body of people with progressive MS. He suggests this may affect the function of some of the body’s enzymes, leading to changes in the biochemical processes in individual cells.

In this project, A/Prof Crouch is quantifying the distribution and amount of copper in tissue from the brain and spinal cord in people with and without MS. He is also hoping to understand how copper in the body influences the molecular mechanisms that underpin progressive MS, and to begin pre-clinical trials of a potential therapy for progressive forms of the disease.

The Trish Foundation works very closely and in association with MS Research Australia. Please click here to watch MS Research Australia’s video in which A/Prof Peter Crouch and Dr James Hilton speak about their research.

In the first year of this three-year project, 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 confirms the data supports the team’s hypothesis on the involvement of copper in progressive MS. This data has come from their analysis of myelin changes in mouse models of MS-like illness. They have also been able to show preliminary data indicating that the changes in copper levels in mice respond to treatment with a copper-based drug. Their analysis of copper levels from post-mortem 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-based drug could eventually be taken forward for testing in people with MS.

A/Prof Crouch and his team will now continue to investigate the extent to which differences in copper levels may naturally occur in people who do not have MS, and therefore how specific their relevance is for progressive MS. They will also continue to investigate the drug treatment with the aim of optimising it for testing in MS.

These findings have been presented at a symposium in Tokyo and have attracted exciting international collaborations. The team are also preparing their initial findings for publication in a scientific journal.