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MS Australia funds over $3 million for MS research grants in 2023

  • MS Australia has funded over $3 million towards MS research grants commencing in 2023.
  • The twenty-two new projects address MS Australia’s priorities for MS research, including causes and prevention, better treatments and cures via repair and regeneration of cells.
  • The grants focus on various areas within these themes, such as the mechanisms underlying progressive MS, the role of different immune cells in MS, pain, diet, and new ways to treat MS and repair brain function.

Twenty-two new projects, ranging from one-year innovative studies to major three-year projects, have received grant funding from MS Australia in 2023. The new grants also include fellowships and scholarships that help support and grow the Australian MS research workforce and promote global collaborations to stop MS in its tracks.

The 2023 funding covers a range of different MS research priorities, including cures via repair and regeneration of cells, better treatments and causes and prevention. The grants focus on various areas within these themes, such as the mechanisms underlying progressive MS, the role of different immune cells in MS, pain, diet, and new ways to treat MS and repair brain function.

MS is an extraordinarily complex disease making it necessary to address all these areas to help gain a full understanding of the disease and devise better approaches to combat it.

As always, these grants were selected following a rigorous external expert review of applications overseen by our Research Management Council. This process ensures that the projects and researchers funded are of the highest quality and have the most significant potential to make a difference for people living with MS.

Unfortunately, due to limited resources, not every high-quality project could be funded, and we continue to strive to find ways to extend the funding envelope each year.

Several studies will focus on a cure for MS via the repair and regeneration of cells, one of the most significant areas of unmet need. This will hopefully pave the way towards halting progression completely.

One of the studies looking into a cure will be undertaken by Associate Professor Jennifer Rodger from the University of Western Australia, WA. Associate Professor Rodger will be identifying the effects that neurological changes have on myelin-producing cells (oligodendrocytes).

Associate Professor Rodger and her team have previously shown that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a non-invasive method that uses a rapidly changing magnetic field to generate small electrical pulses in the brain, can improve the survival of oligodendrocytes in the brain.

However, the brain is a very complex organ that has many diverse types of cells that interact with each other. Her aim is to identify cellular targets of rTMS that will help to understand the precise factors involved in oligodendrocyte survival, and design treatments to rescue brain function in people with MS.

Many of the new projects and fellowships will focus on improving treatments for people with MS.

Ms Olivia Wills from the University of Wollongong, NSW, is exploring the role of diet in a brain-healthy lifestyle for people living with MS. While there is currently no supporting evidence for diets specific to people living with MS, this project will rationalise dietary choices and may lead to targeted nutrition approaches for brain health including recommendations for people living with MS, their carers and their families.

Dr Alice Saul from the University of Tasmania, TAS, will be focusing on the role of pain in MS. Her project aims to improve our understanding of the type of pain associated with MS, to develop advice on pain management for people living with MS and health practitioners, and to design treatment intervention studies for specific types of pain.

Dr Jennifer Massey, from St Vincent’s Centre for Applied Medical Research, NSW, will be investigating whether the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may be the cause of MS by studying the effect of Autologous Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (AHSCT). This project will improve knowledge surrounding the role of EBV in MS and help clinicians alter the way in which AHSCT is performed (e.g., with anti-viral or cellular therapies) to better control EBV if it is shown to be relevant to disease remission.

Other new projects will be investigating causes and prevention of MS. One study will be led by Dr Nicholas Blackburn from the University of Tasmania, TAS.

Dr Blackburn will be interrogating genetic changes in the development of MS. Genetics can influence the risk of developing MS, however, it is currently unknown which genes and what changes to these genes cause MS or worsen MS symptoms. His research aims to identify potential MS-associated genes by studying families where multiple members have MS.

We are incredibly grateful to the MS community, our donors and funding partners, including MS Limited, MSQ, MSWA, MS Society of SA & NT and the National Health and Medical Research Council, for making it possible to fund these amazing researchers as they work towards stopping MS in its tracks.

This is just a brief overview of some of the new research projects funded in 2023. The full details of these and the other projects we are funding in 2023 can be found here.

A summary of the current and ongoing research projects funded by MS Australia can be found in our Snapshot Document here.

MS Australia’s media release, MS Australia boosts Multiple Sclerosis research with over $3 million in grants, can be found here.

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MS Australia funds over $3 million for MS research grants in 2023