MS prevention study receives boost

MS prevention study receives boost

Illuminate newsletter index page, March 2020
March 2020

Professor Gabrielle Belz
Professor Gabrielle Belz is leading a three-year study looking
at the interaction between gut immunity and the brain.

A project aiming to help treat and prevent multiple sclerosis (MS) has received $213,000 from MS Research Australia.

Led by Professor Gabrielle Belz, the three-year study will investigate how immune cells in the gut make antibodies that protect the brain against MS, a neurological disease impacting more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

In MS, the immune system mistakenly attacks the insulating layer of nerve fibres – called myelin – in the central nervous system during episodes of inflammation. However not all immune cells are involved in this destructive mechanism.

Professor Belz said there were types of immune cells originating from the gut that could promote the protection of the brain and spine.

“These immune cells can act in the intestine itself, but most surprisingly they can travel around the body to distant sites such as the brain and spinal cord where they dampen down the harmful impact of inflammation occurring in MS.

“This means that immunity generated by the gut could play a significant role in stopping the development and progression of MS,” she said.

New drug targets

Professor Belz and her team had developed new tools to probe the complex interactions between gut immunity and the brain, with funding from MS Research Australia.

“The generous support from MS Australia could enable the discovery of new targets for developing drugs that treat or prevent MS. This would be an exciting step forward in providing potential new therapies and improved disease management options for people living with MS,” she said.

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