Blocking genes to treat MS

Professor Steve Wilton

Murdoch University, WA

| Better treatments | Genetics | Project | 2016 | Investigator Led Research |


In this project, Professor Steve Wilton aims to develop therapeutics that can suppress the activity of genes implicated in the development of MS. While there are many effective therapies available for people with relapsing MS, they are not always effective or tolerated by every individual with MS. Therefore a range of therapeutics are required so that individuals can find a therapy that suits their disease and lifestyle.

In 2015, Professor Wilton began this work with the help of an incubator grant. During that time his team were able to inhibit the production of a molecule called ITGA4 in cells grown in the laboratory. For this project, the effect of suppressing the production of ITGA4 will be investigated in a laboratory model of MS. He will also determine if inhibiting another gene using the same technique is possible, and what effect that has on myelin repair in the brain and spinal cord. By blocking these genes, Professor Wilton aims to promote myelin repair and ultimately contribute to the cure of MS.

Progress to Date

Professor Wilton and his team have built on research performed during their MS Research Australia incubator grant. They have adapted these experiments to block the production of Itga4 in mouse cells grown in the laboratory. To accomplish this they adapted the experimental blocking molecules that they had developed previously so that they are more applicable to clinical use. Similar molecules have been used to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy with limited side effects. This year they will determine if blocking Itga4, using these molecules, has any effect on a mouse model of MS.

Professor Wilton’s team has also adapted this technique to block another gene that may be involved in the development of MS. This produced unexpected results that suggest that this particular gene is regulated and processed differently than ITGA4. This in itself is an important outcome which will allow them to refine the development of the treatment so that it is adaptable to different biological pathways.

This year Professor Wilton’s team will expand on these results and try to determine if this technique can produce another therapy for MS.

Updated: 8 August 2017

Updated: 29 January, 2016



Grant Awarded

  • Project Grant

Total Funding

  • $50,000


  • 1 year over 2016

Funding Partner

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Professor Alan Baxter

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Blocking genes to treat MS