One of the laboratory models used to study MS is based on the treatment of mice with a compound that binds to copper in the body. Treatment with this compound causes loss of myelin, however, no research has yet investigated exactly how the compound causes the myelin cells to die in mice and whether this provides clues as to how myelin is damaged in MS.
Using techniques that he has previously perfected for his research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Motor Neuron Disease), Dr Crouch will determine whether MS-affected tissue in mice and in people with MS is functionally deficient in copper.
This research project is simple, but important. Most studies that attempt to understand whether metals such as copper are altered in disease affected tissue focus on measuring the total amount of copper present in the tissue. However, this type of analysis does not reveal functional aspects of the copper within the tissue of interest. In this study, Dr Crouch will examine both the levels of the copper dependent enzymes in the tissue and their actual copper dependent enzymatic activity. Differences between these two measurements can reveal functional copper deficiency despite no change in copper levels within the tissue.
This project will be the first to assess the specific activity of multiple copper dependent enzymes in a laboratory model of MS and in post-mortem tissue from people with MS. It will therefore be the first to provide clear biochemical data to indicate whether there is a link between functional copper deficiency and loss of myelin in MS.
Commencing this project in the second half of 2015, Dr Crouch and colleagues have made excellent progress obtaining human tissue required to complete their analyses. The data generated to date provided Dr Crouch with information that has been used as the basis of a large scale grant application to the National Health and Medical Research council, and a publication is imminent.
Research on the biochemical mechanisms underpinning MS is on-going in the Crouch lab and they are speaking with commercial partners as a result of this incubator grant.
Updated: 23 June 2017
Updated: 03 January, 2015