James Cook University researchers will take a new approach to unraveling the mysteries of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Professor Alan Baxter and Dr Margaret Jordan will manipulate genes within networks of cells rather than looking at cells in isolation.
They recently received a $240,000 grant from MS Research Australia to fund their work for the next three years.
Analysis of genetic ‘networks’ has shown that many of the genes identified as having an effect on MS work together in the same pathways, and that modulating pathways as a whole may provide protection from risk.
In previous research, Professor Baxter compared the activity levels of genes in a number of different types of immune cells in people with MS.
He found the gene activity in part of a network (known as a module) was different in monocytes, (a type of white blood cell), in MS.
The first part of this research project will validate these differences to ensure that this is a true difference in MS blood cells.
The team will then modulate the pathways overall by suppressing specific genes that control the activity of other genes, to determine interactions within the gene network.
This network approach will provide more information about MS risk factors than the analysis of individual risk factors separately and may provide a multi-faceted target for treatment.
It’s estimated that over 23,000 people in Australia have MS.
An additional 1,000 Australians are diagnosed with MS every year.
The disease produces a slow neurodegeneration leading to a progressive increase in disability.
MS Research Australia is the largest national not-for-profit funder of multiple sclerosis research in Australia.
From JCU Media