How does epigenetics influence multiple sclerosis?

Dr Alexandre Xavier

University of Newcastle, NSW

| Better treatments | Epidemiology | Genetics | Fellowship | 2023 | Investigator Led Research |


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a very complex disease, caused by genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.  

Genes can behave differently without changing   the DNA sequence; this is known as epigenetics. One of the main mechanisms of epigenetics is DNA methylation, where a chemical modification occurs and as methyl group is added to the DNA sequence.  

Dr Alexandre Xavier will investigate how epigenetics interacts with genetics (DNA sequence) and how genes are expressed in the context of MS. He will use different statistical modelling methods to understand how epigenetics affects MS onset, disease progression and severity.  

MS is also known to behave differently in males and females. To explain why, Dr Xavier and his team will investigate how biological sex influences DNA methylation and MS. They will study DNA methylation on X and Y chromosomes and determine how it may cause differences in severity and incidence observed in MS. 

Finally, the team will map all the interactions between the genetic code, DNA methylation and gene expression originating from the most important region of the genome for MS, the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). 

Updated: 22 February, 2023

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


Total Funding

  • $225,000


  • 3 years – starting 2023

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Ms Alice Saul

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How does epigenetics influence multiple sclerosis?