Changes in the immune system following AHSCT


Dr Malini Visweswaran

St Vincent's Centre of Applied Medical Research, NSW

| Better treatments | Immunology | Fellowship | 2021 | Investigator Led Research |


There has been a lot of interest into autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) and how it might work to improve clinical outcomes for people with MS. Previous research work from scientists at the St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney and by other researchers has shown that AHSCT can “re-set” the immune system, possibly leading to disease remission and better outcomes for people with MS. The nature of the person most likely to benefit from AHSCT is still being determined.

St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney is one of the leading hospitals performing AHSCT in MS in Australia and has a strategic partnership with MS Australia to advance cellular therapies such as AHSCT. St Vincent’s also has a biobank of blood samples collected from patients over time, both before and after the AHSCT procedure.

Dr Visweswaran and her team hope to shed light on how the AHSCT procedure induces the beneficial effects seen in MS. Current thinking is that changes to the metabolic state of immune cells may be important in this process. This concept will be investigated in this study by closely examining the metabolic profile of immune cells to see how the transplant affects their metabolism. The research team has access to the biobank blood samples and the clinical progress reports of past patients and can match the laboratory results to clinical outcomes to gain an even deeper understanding of the procedure. By understanding these underlying mechanisms, it is hoped that safer and more effective transplant options may be developed for the future, enhancing our understanding of processes contributing to a successful AHSCT outcome and the best candidate for the procedure in people living with MS.

Progress to Date

Dr Visweswaran has successfully custom-designed metabolic flow cytometry panels, as well as optimised antibodies and experiment conditions for these flow cytometry panels. She has also designed flow cytometry panels to measure mitochondrial activity, mitochondrial superoxide generation and glucose uptake rates. These methodologies will determine any changes to the metabolic profile of immune cells in MS before and after AHSCT, and in comparison to a non-autoimmune cohort of people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who have also undergone AHSCT, and to people who don’t have either condition.

Dr Visweswaran is in the process of writing a review article to be published in a scientific journal.

Updated: 31 March 2022

Updated: 19 January, 2021

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


Grant Awarded

  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Total Funding

  • $165,000


  • 3 years

Funding Partner

  • The Neil and Norma Hill Foundation
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Changes in the immune system following AHSCT