Following very generous support at the Trish Foundation’s 2018 Ball, an Incubator Grant titled “Developing methods to promote the creation of new myelin in MS”, was awarded to Associate Professor Anthony Don.
A/Prof Don showed in laboratory models that S1P is essential for protecting the myelinating cells of the brain against damage and that loss of myelinating cells and myelin was much more severe in the absence of S1P. A/Prof Don conducted a pilot study to determine whether giving drugs that mimic S1P protect the myelinating cells and prevent severe myelin loss. He established that the newly approved treatment for secondary progressive MS, siponimod (Mayzent), protects against the loss of myelin in a low inflammatory laboratory model of MS. This result is important as this laboratory model for MS is not dependent on the immune system’s involvement. These findings suggest that siponimod protects myelinating cells and myelin independent of its primary clinical mechanism in modulating the immune cells that play a role in MS.
These exciting results warranted further research into the role of naturally occurring S1P in protecting against the loss of neurological function in MS, and the potential for drugs mimicking S1P to promote myelin repair.
In yet another example of Incubator Grants generating additional research funding, A/Prof Don was awarded a Project Grant by MS Research Australia commencing 2021 to investigate whether some MS drugs can protect and restore myelin in multiple sclerosis.