2 September 2012
The 2nd to 8th September 2012 marks Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week in New Zealand, a time for us to reflect on the research being undertaken in this country to improve the lives of individuals suffering from this debilitating disease.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that results in functional disability and can render a person unable to write, speak or walk. Women are almost three times more likely to develop MS than men. While some MS treatments are available to help manage the disease, they are not equally effective in all patients and often have side effects associated with medium to long-term use.
Research Associate Dr Anne La Flamme (pictured above), who is an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, is responsible for overseeing the Malaghan Institute's MS research programme. Her research team is using a multipronged approach to develop more effective therapies for controlling the aberrant immune responses that occur in organ specific autoimmune disorders such as MS. The first approach is to understand the basic biology of MS in experimental laboratory models, in order to identify potential therapeutic targets or new markers of disease progression. In conjunction with this work is a research programme aimed at identifying and testing novel compounds that could be used to halt disease progression. One compound, MIS416, is produced by the New Zealand company Innate Immunotherapeutics and has just completed a Phase 2A clinical trial in secondary progressive MS patients.
Since 2010, funds from the Great New Zealand Trek have supported four different research projects run through the Malaghan Institute's MS research programme. These projects have focused on identifying new treatments for MS as well as on understanding how immune responses are altered during the disease. We are very grateful to the support received from the Great New Zealand Trek, which has been vital in allowing us to investigate and test new ideas and support the development of emerging MS researchers.
Link to the MS Society of New Zealand website to learn more about multiple sclerosis.