Unravelling mechanisms of progressive MS

Associate Professor Alexander Klistorner

Save Sight Institute

| Causes and Prevention | Neurobiology | Project | 2022 | Investigator Led Research |


MS is the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults. It is characterised by the development of lesions or spots of inflammation in the brain. While existing treatments radically reduce the risk of new lesions forming, it does not fully arrest disease progression, suggesting that different disease activities are going on in the brain and spinal cord.

Clinical studies suggest that multiple mechanisms can potentially be implicated in the progression of the disease, particularly when MS progresses into secondary progressive MS (SPMS). It was suggested that chronic inflammation may make some of the nerve fibres more vulnerable to physiological stress. In addition to the damage at the site of lesions, these spots may induce damage in regions of the brain that are distant. However, clinical studies evaluating the role of these in progression of physical and cognitive disability in people with SPMS are lacking.

Therefore, the primary objective of the current proposal is to establish the role and predictive power of chronic lesions, “slow burning” inflammation and degeneration in progression of secondary progressive MS (SPMS). The proposed research will use state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques, partly developed in our lab, to examine disease progression.

Progress to Date

Significant progress has been made despite challenges with COVID-related restrictions. So far, Professor Alexander Klistorner, and co-investigator, Professor Michael Barnett have identified and approached 71 eligible individuals with secondary progressive MS. Forty-nine of them have already given their consent to participate. Additionally, 20 participants have completed their baseline visits. The study is ongoing, aiming to enrol a total of 100 participants.  

The team are using various imaging and electrophysiological techniques to examine the participants over time and are also working on the development of new biomarkers (biological signs) to monitor disease progression. 

They have also developed new approaches to measure the impact of chronic inflammation on brain volume and disease progression, with two manuscripts in preparation for publication in a scientific journal on this topic.  

Findings from this study will hopefully result in a substantial shift in the current paradigm of MS progression and will impact future development of treatment strategies. 

Updated: 31 March 2023

Updated: 14 February, 2022

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

  • Targeted Call Project Grant

Total Funding

  • $642,000


  • 3 years

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Milena Gandy

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Unravelling mechanisms of progressive MS