Important findings

Commencing January 2018, Professor Trevor Kilpatrick, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, was awarded a 3-year Project Grant titled, “Enhancing Myelin Repair for Benefit in Multiple Sclerosis” to which the Trish MS Research Foundation contributed.

Despite some unavoidable delays resulting from the extended Melbourne lockdown period, important findings have been made.

In multiple sclerosis (MS) the protective sheath around nerves, known as myelin, is damaged and lost. This loss disrupts electrical impulses and exposes nerves to immune attack, leading to their death. Current MS therapies suppress the immune response but do not promote repair or prevent disease progression. Professor Kilpatrick and his team have shown that a protein known as Tyro3 improves myelin production and repair. The goal of this study is to establish how Tyro3 works, and the comparative benefit it is likely to provide. In an important finding, we have determined that another molecule called BDNF, which is also known to promote myelin repair, employs different signalling pathways to Tyro3, suggesting the two molecules could be used in combination for greater improvement.

We have also found that the visual system is dramatically disrupted in the absence of Tyro3. This may be because of the loss of myelin, or it may be more directly because of the loss of Tyro3 in nerves. We are now looking to answer this question, as it may be that therapies designed to activate Tyro3 may also provide direct benefit to nerves. This is important as ultimately it is damage to nerves which leads to disability in MS.

A collaborative interaction with Professor David Grayden’s group in the School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne was established and manuscripts have been published, submitted for publication and oral and poster presentations invited.