Research leading to a $1.1M NHMRC Ideas Grant

Commencing January 2019, Dr Junhua Xiao, the University of Melbourne, was awarded a 3-year Project Grant titled “How neurons regulate cortical and subcortical remyelination”.  Dr Xiao subsequently left the University and her Project Grant was awarded to A/Prof Simon Murray who has continued her important work.

In this research the scientists have been looking at a protein called TrkB which is made in the nerve cells in the brain and seems to be important in the remyelination process.  Using a combination of ground-breaking scientific approaches, the project has been looking at what happens to the remyelination process in cells in the presence and absence of TrkB.

A/Prof Murray has sent the following report:

“This grant has continued to progress well.  We have used an experimental model of central nervous system demyelination to dissect the role that a molecule, called TrkB, exerts upon myelin repair.  We have been working on the TrkB molecule for some time and we believe it holds promise as a therapeutic target for repair in MS.  In these particular experiments, we interrogated the role that TrkB expressed on nerve cells exert upon myelin repair.  After extensive analysis of a number of experimental cohorts, the data are clearly demonstrating that neuronal TrkB exerts little effect upon myelin repair.  These data were not as expected and quite surprising, but is nevertheless an important finding and has helped us refine our hypotheses for future experiments and proposals.  I would like to acknowledge a PhD student in the lab, Ms Sangwon Yoo, for undertaking some of these analyses.  These experiments have formed a substantial part of her PhD thesis which we hope to submit by the end of this year.

This grant had an additional component that examined the nature of the interaction between oligodendrocytes and the nerves they myelinate.  Intriguingly, we are finding that the TrkB molecule is exerting significant differences in the way the oligodendrocytes make initial contact with axons.  This is novel and we are continuing to examine this.  This is all the more intriguing, as despite these differences in the initial contact, myelin repair appears to proceed unimpeded.

Finally, I would just like to add that grants such as these are extremely important to the lab, they really help us keep together in a very tight funding environment.  On the up-side, I am very pleased to let you know that the lab received a 5 year, $1.1M NHMRC Ideas Grant to continue our MS research.  This was announced at the end of 2021 and came into effect this year.  This new Ideas Grant is related to the work undertaken in the Trish grant, still focussing our attention on TrkB in remyelination.  So we are grateful for the time and effort you, your Foundation and your donor groups put in, they really help the lab along.”

Due to the pandemic, a revised completion date to 31st December 2022 for A/Prof Murray’s Project Grant was requested and approved.