Overview of research in Australia

The medium to long-term strategy of MS Research Australia focuses on funding research that will increase our understanding of the biology driving multiple sclerosis. It will help us understand how to stop multiple sclerosis causing further damage, and how to repair existing damage to reverse disability. This requires extensive funding, collaboration and coordination.

In the shorter term, clinical and allied health research is measuring the benefits of symptom management and rehabilitation approaches. Social research measures the physical, social and economic impact of multiple sclerosis on Australians, with results being used to develop evidence-based services and underpin advocacy for people living with multiple sclerosis.

To achieve these goals, MS Research Australia has a rigorous competitive grant-giving program that allocates funding to the strongest and most promising researchers and research projects wherever they may be in Australia. They also work in partnership with relevant medical research institutes and scientists around Australia, encouraging collaborations and focusing on Australia’s strengths in multiple sclerosis research.

MS Research Australia’s five main research streams

  1. Genetics and Epidemiology - aims to identify the genes and environmental factors that influence disease susceptibility and the progression of symptoms. This includes the ANZgene MS Genetics Collaboration, PrevANZ: Vitamin D Prevention Trial and other projects that focus on the function of specific genes as well as lifestyle factors that may influence disease progression.
  2. Immunology and Virology - investigates the role of the different components of the immune system in multiple sclerosis and what might trigger the development of multiple sclerosis in genetically susceptible people. This includes research into the Epstein-Barr virus and its interaction with the immune system.
  3. Neurobiology - aims to understand how the cells of the brain and spinal cord are affected by MS. This includes research to understand how to protect neurons from the damage caused by inflammation in MS and how to stimulate repair of the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibres. This field of research also includes proteomics research to discover the proteins involved in multiple sclerosis, and also the MS Research Australia Brain Bank, a specialised collection of human tissues of the central nervous system donated by deceased donors for use in neuropathology research
  4. Clinical Trials - provide the opportunity for people affected by multiple sclerosis to participate in trials for new treatments and symptom management approaches. The MS Research Australia Clinical Trials Network aims to increase communication between clinical trial sponsors, academics, neurologists and people with MS to improve access to and awareness of clinical trials. Visit MS Research Australia’s MS Clinical Trials Network website for more information.
  5. Social and Applied Research - focuses on the ‘here and now’ of living with multiple sclerosis and aims to improve symptom management, rehabilitation and quality of life. It includes fields of research such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, exercise physiology and psychology. This includes the survey-based Australian MS Longitudinal Study (also known as the MS Life Study), which is designed to provide practical data used for improving the lives of people affected by multiple sclerosis.

For more information about the projects and collaborations that MS Research Australia is supporting, visit www.msra.org.au

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