Developing a blood test to predict and track therapeutic response in MS

Associate Professor Anthony Don

The University of Sydney, NSW

| Better treatments | Epidemiology | Genetics | Project | 2024 | Investigator Led Research |


In MS, the immune system attacks and depletes the myelin sheaths that insulate and protect nerve cells. Myelin acts like insulation on copper wires and is essential for neurological function. The demyelination that occurs in MS causes loss of brain and spinal cord function and, eventually, brain and spinal cord degeneration.

Myelin is comprised mostly of lipids (fats), a large and diverse set of molecules that form biological membranes. Using mass spectrometry technology, Associate Professor Anthony Don and his team can quantify hundreds of lipid molecules in the blood. They have shown that levels of lipids can not only differentiate people with MS from those without MS, but also provide a readily accessible and accurate read-out of disease activity in a cohort of people with MS.

This project will determine firstly if levels of specific lipids in the blood serve as indicators of ongoing demyelination and disease progression in people with MS. Secondly, the project will determine if specific lipids serve as useful indicators of therapeutic response in MS. This is crucial because it means doctors could use a simple blood test to check if a treatment is working. Currently, they rely on brain scans and tests of brain function, which are done less often and can only spot problems after they've already happened.

The proposed blood lipid test is also needed for clinical trials of therapies that aim to regenerate myelin and restore neurological function in people with MS and can be implemented on mass spectrometers that are already used in diagnostic pathology labs.

Updated: 22 January, 2024

Stages of the research process

Fundamental laboratory

Laboratory research that investigates scientific theories behind the possible causes, disease progression, ways to diagnose and better treat MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 10+ years

Research that builds on fundamental scientific research to develop new therapies, medical procedures or diagnostics and advances it closer to the clinic.

Lab to clinic timeline: 5+ years
Clinical Studies
and Clinical Trials

Clinical research is the culmination of fundamental and translational research turning those research discoveries into treatments and interventions for people with MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 1-5 years


  • Associate Professor Laura Piccio
  • Dr Ramon Landin-Romero
  • Associate Professor Todd Hardy
  • Dr Ellis Patrick

Total Funding

  • $249,995


  • 3 years – starting 2024

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Developing a blood test to predict and track therapeutic response in MS