Associate Professor Anne Whitworth is investigating communication interventions to help people who have had a stroke and are experiencing a breakdown in understanding language, speaking, reading and/or writing.
Teaming up with MSWA Speech Pathologists and computer scientists, Anne’s research team is developing and testing an app that allows therapy sessions to be take place remotely. The ‘NARNIA Communication App’ is one of the newly funded projects benefitting from our record-breaking $10 million research contribution.
MSWA IS PROUD TO ANNOUCE THAT IN THIS 2021/22 FINANCIAL YEAR, WE ARE COMMITTING A RECORD-BREAKING AMOUNT OF $10 MILLION TO NEUROLOGICAL RESEARCH.
This new $10 million contribution is being used by recipients to advance studies to clinical trials for new treatments and medications, develop and trial new apps and educational tools, and provide novel insights that add to the knowledge of the wider neurological research community.
Thanks to our investment into research, understanding of neurological conditions has significantly improved over the years. This investment would not be possible without Western Australians supporting our fundraising initiatives which allow MSWA funded researchers to continue their important work.
MSWA are pleased to once again be partnering with MS Australia. This year, they will be distributing key MS funds to our WA based researchers on our behalf.
MSWA FUNDED RESEARCH
The Perron Institute - Led by Group Director, Clinical Professor Allan Kermode
This research team is involved in a number of research projects to investigate the clinical profile of different subgroups of Western Australian patients with MS which is a demyelinating disease.
Specifically, under their banner of MRI and genetic research, the team are:
Examining antibodies in RRMS
Conducting brain and serum neurofilament light analysis in people with benign and non-benign MS
Collecting clinical samples over time
Investigating biomarkers in MS
Looking at genetic determinants through immunophenotyping
Conducting quantitative MRI studies including building an MRI library, clinical comparisons, collaborative studies, walking rehabilitation through music, and the development of exercise guidelines for MS
Additional research is being conducted in cellular immunology, B-cell regulation and T-cell interaction, and immediate post-mortem single-cell sequencing and transcriptomics from brain tissues.
The Perron Institute – Key Researchers include Prof. Allan Kermode and Dr Marzena Fabis-Pedrini
As an ongoing study, this project is enrolling participants and contributing to national and international longitudinal data sets comprised of clinical data including blood results, therapies and treatments, MRIs, relapses.
This registry is for MS and has several sub-studies to gain insight into the efficacy of medications and treatments, pregnancy data, plus the outcomes and correlations between various external factors.
The Perron Institute - Led by Associate Professor Jenny Rodger
Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Professor Rodger and her research team aim to understand brain plasticity and how to harness it, thereby producing new and effective treatments for patients with a wide range of neurological conditions.
Continuing important research into neuroplasticity, this study is moving on from evidence-based treatment protocols towards human clinical trials using transcranial magnetic stimulation for the rehabilitation of stroke, MS and more.
The hope remains to confirm the benefit of treatments, including TCMS, that build new pathways and increase repair in the brain through non-invasive interventions which complement standard rehabilitation therapies and improve outcomes.
The Perron Institute – Led by Adjunct Professor Bruno Meloni and Clinical Professor Neville Knuckey
This exciting project is the ongoing development of a neuroprotection agent for use in acute stroke and subsequent efficacy testing that will ultimately lead to clinical trials. The potential of this new treatment is that it could improve outcomes for patients after stroke, and potentially acquired brain injury, by reducing brain damage in the acute phase which is time critical.
Identifying the optimal effective dose of this neuroprotective agent in a clinical setting is of high importance because it will be used in conjunction with thrombolytic medication. This study has implications beyond Western Australia.
The Perron Institute and Murdoch University – Key researcher is Dr Luke Whiley
This study is examining the link between fatty amino acids and the cognitive and motor severity of those living with Parkinson’s Disease. The concept behind this work is that the distribution and diversity of bacterial species has large role in disease development.
Looking at the potential functional role of the gut microbiome in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease, this project has been attempting to understand disease causation, and quantify the concentration of key metabolic pathways including short chain fatty acids, amino acids, and neurotransmitters, through mass spectrometry assays. Optimising the extraction method of metabolites from different biofluids is key to this research.
Trajectories of Outcome in Neurological Conditions (TONiC)
The Perron Institute - led by Head of Genetic Epidemiology Research Professor Sulev Kōks
TONIC is a local project that has been used internationally for several conditions. It is a patient-centred longitudinal study to analyse various aspects of conditions including monitoring the impact on the quality of life of patients with neurological conditions from their perspective.
The Western Australian study has started with motor neurone disease with the potential to expand into studies for MS and Parkinson’s soon. By investigating the genetic influence on social, psychological, and biological function, the team are hoping to identify more personalised approaches to care and treatment.
Protocols, questionnaires and at home testing kits have been developed through a pilot study which involved feedback from disease experts and participants.
The Perron Institute – Led by Professor Sulev Koks and Professor Anthony Akkari
This new project stream is investigating the possibilities of genomic medicine which combines DNA/RNA diagnostics, predictive analysis and interpretation. Their approach is to integrate genomic and cellular expression data to gain the necessary insight into the disease processes.
The intent is to identify genes that contribute to a predisposition for developing neurodegenerative conditions including MND, Parkinson’s and MS. Additionally, potentially identifying and developing a guide for new genetically targeted therapies to block the causal genes and reduce risk on a molecular level which could positively impact the rate of progression.
Curtin University - Led by Associate Professor Lucinda Black
This research is built around the need for high-quality evidence on the influences of diet on MS while making sure that any findings support the requirements and values of people with MS. Goals include the development of educational resources and rigorous protocols for diet-related clinical trials.
Prof. Black is now the lead of a dedicated research program within CHIRI under the neurodegeneration banner. Four main research themes include:
Quantitative analysis of national and international observational studies to test associations between diet and MS onset and disease progression using secondary data;
Qualitative analysis using in-depth interviews and focus groups to identify diet behaviours/attitudes among people with MS, carers, and health professionals;
The development and implementation of dietary education resources and programs for people with MS; and
The development of rigorous protocols for a diet-related clinical trials for people with MS.
Curtin University – Led by Clinical Professor John Mamo
With a focus on dietary interventions, this clinical intervention trial involves a specific high-fat diet that is unlike any other diets trialled for MS. It aims to achieve remyelination by investigating potential effects of specific lipid nutraceuticals – medical preparations that have nutritional and medical value.
Establishing a small clinical trial initially will lend insights into reaching better myelin homeostasis in people living with relapsing-remitting MS by investigating the impact of lipids commonly found in the membranes of cells.
Curtin University - Led by director of Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI), Professor John Mamo
This team is looking at the effect of ageing on the development of neurodegenerative diseases, linking lifestyle factors that potentially increase the risk of Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease, Huntington’s disease and MS. Research could potentially lead to the identification of preventative interventions and treatments.
Curtin University – Led by director of Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI), Professor John Mamo
This novel trial is investigating a potential new treatment for Alzheimer’s by repurposing a drug used previously for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Using Probucol, the team hope to suppress the production and leakage of small molecules in the blood that build up causing brain damage and protect brain capillaries to improve cognitive function and slow degeneration.
If successful, this may potentially benefit other neurological conditions with dementia-like symptoms.
Curtin University – Associate Professor Anne Whitworth
This team are developing a novel therapy approach for people with aphasia - a communication condition typically seen after stroke. The project proposes a highly structured language therapy delivered using a natural interactive approach that combines cognitive and language skills while focusing on speech in daily life. Additionally, it is individualised to maximise therapy benefits.
More recently, the team’s focus is on delivering the therapy using a digital platform – the ‘NARNIA Communication App’. MSWA funding will allow the development of this App and to test its application within MSWA and the wider community. Creating the App allows individuals to use their tablet or phone enabling intervention and therapy to occur anywhere.
Systematic Profiling in Neurological Conditions (SPIN)
Edith Cowan University - Led by Executive Dean, Medical and Health Sciences, Professor Moira Sim
Translating research into practice, this multidisciplinary team are identifying markers in individuals that will assist with developing and delivering more targeted therapeutic interventions for Stroke, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and MS. Ultimately, these researchers are improving quality of life and outcomes by providing evidence-based information and application.
Specific interventions include light therapy glasses promoting more effective sleep and reducing fatigue, and the MindPod exoskeleton for upper limb rehabilitation.
Telethon Kids Institute – Key Researcher is Dr Jonaton Leffler
This study, overseen by Professor Prue Hart, involves the analysis if samples from the PhoCIS biobank housed at Telethon Kids Institute to identify MS pathogenesis by examining antigens through innovative methods. Specifically, female predispositions are being investigated through analysis of cell dysfunctions, and pathogenic and autoimmune mechanisms.
Dr Leffler's work is related to previously funded research that investigated the effects of UVB treatment in delaying the development of MS in high-risk individuals.
MSWA is proud to fund the International Progressive MS Alliance through MSRA, working towards finding a greater understanding and better treatments for progressive MS
MSWA is proud to fund the International Progressive MS Alliance. This is an unprecedented global collaboration of MS organisations, researchers, clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, and people with progressive MS, striving to create a better understanding of the progressive process and accelerate access to treatments for people living with progressive MS.
MSWA has allocated $1.7M (up to 2019/2020) to this Alliance and there will be an additional $1M this financial year.