Research articles

Medical research scientists are working around Australia and the globe to better understand neurological disorders and their causes, seeking new or better treatments and ultimately, cures. Here are details of current research projects and exciting discoveries in the field of neurological research.

MSWA recommends that you discuss any research results, or new treatments mentioned, with your neurologist; as they know your individual circumstances and can provide personalised advice.

Repurposing existing medications for remyelination in MS

Researchers from the International Progressive MS Alliance, through their BRAVEinMS platform, have screened 1280 medications that have already been through clinical trials and deemed safe. Three of these drugs were found to promote remyelination, an important step in generating new myelin sheaths around axons in the adult central nervous system for people with MS.

MSWA contributes funds annually to support the research efforts of the International Progressive MS Alliance; $1m has been allocated for 2021.

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A robotic step forward for physical stroke rehabilitation

US researchers are using a robotic exoskeleton to provide high-dose therapy early after stroke to maximise physical mobility when neuroplasticity allows the greatest benefits. This study offers insights for the timelines for gait therapy to begin after recovering from stroke, and the use of assisted technologies to do so.

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New study describes non-invasive way to track Huntington’s disease progression

A development from the US has seen an opportunity to track disease progression through MRI brain scans that could potentially measure blood in the brain. Researchers propose the use of this non-invasive test as a biomarker before patients begin showing symptoms.

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Vocal music boosts the recovery of language functions after stroke

Listening to music every day could improve language recovery after acute stroke according to University of Helsinki researchers. When comparing vocal music, instrumental music and audiobooks, vocal music was seen to positively impact the structural connectivity of the language network in the left frontal lobe.

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New imaging technique may boost research in biology, neuroscience

Researchers from Harvard University present a new imaging technique to produce high-quality, deep-tissue images without sacrificing time. Using an infrared laser to penetrate through biological tissue, the light excites the fluorescent molecules which emit signals that the microscope captures to form the image.

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Severity of MS could be predicted through respiratory functions

A new study has indicated that the strength of muscles while exhaling could indicate physical ability and MS severity. Conclusions suggested that impaired respiratory muscle strength was associated with lower functional capacity and more severe disease progression.

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Researchers find Mediterranean diets are good for the brain

A recent study from the US displayed positive outcomes of a Mediterranean dietary approach on cognitive aging and neurogenerative disease specifically for MS. Another group of German researchers also contend that a Mediterranean diet might protect against memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s.

Read the full MS article Read the full Alzheimer's article

MSWA funded researcher Associate Professor Lucinda Black has conducted research that previously had similar findings. Professor Black continues to research MS and diets. Visit our Commitment to Research page to read more.

Smartwatch sensors monitor real-world motor fluctuations in Parkinson’s disease

Researchers driven by Apple Inc., have developed an ambulatory monitoring system to track dyskinesia (involuntary movements) and resting tremors. Remote monitoring of motor symptoms could enable more precise treatments according to recent research.

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Role of sleep-related brain activity in clearing toxic proteins and preventing Alzheimer's disease

Evidence of sleep-dependent low-frequency global brain activity in the clearance of Alzheimer's disease-related toxin buildup is presented in new research. This neuronal activity was more strongly linked with cerebrospinal fluid flow in healthy controls than higher risk groups and patients, and the findings could serve as a potential imaging marker for clinicians in evaluating patients.

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Canadian research indicates perinatal stroke as a source of insight into plasticity development

Researchers have considered the diverse long-term neurological outcomes associated with perinatal brain injury. Non-invasive brain stimulation through transcranial magnetic stimulation and therapeutic habilitation are key interventions that may make perinatal stroke a model for human developmental plasticity.

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Exoskeleton therapy improves mobility, cognition and brain connectivity in people with MS

Experts led a pilot trial using robotic-exoskeleton assisted exercise rehabilitation (REAER) for people living with substantial MS-related impairments. Their results showed that REAER is likely an effective intervention, and is a promising therapy for improving the lives of those with MS. There are further implications for other neurological conditions.

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Basic cell health wears down in Huntington's disease, A recent study shows

Using an innovative computational approach to analyse vast brain cell gene expression datasets, researchers suggest the possibility that Huntington's disease may progress to advanced stages more because of a degradation of the cells' health maintenance systems than because of increased damage from the disease pathology itself.

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Bereavement research into MND

Local researcher, Prof. Samar Aoun – supported by MSWA - has released a paper with her colleagues looking at consumer preferences when it comes to tail-end motor neurone disease care. Additionally, an online toolkit has been developed for MND carers.

Read the full article and Read about the online toolkit

Research looking to improve movement through exercise for people with Parkinson's and MS

US research is currently in clinical trials with an experimental digital therapy which uses sensors, music and software to provide more options for interventions to improve walking. The technology syncs with movement through syncopated beats.

MSWA funded research from Murdoch University is currently embarking on a similar study that is looking at the impact of music and walking. With an app designed as a rehabilitation tool for MS, this study is hoping to gauge how auditory cues and music impact walking patterns and motivation to exercise.

Read more on the US trial and Read more on the MSRA research

Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) and wireless neurotechnology developed for neurological conditions

Researchers from the NIH BRAIN Initiative in the US have two different projects developing neurotechnology for communication and movement benefiting ALS, stroke, Parkinson's and more.

Read the full article 1 and Read the full article 2

New genetic clues point to new treatments for 'silent' stroke

Scientists have identified new genetic clues in people who have had lacunar strokes that are difficult to treat and a major cause of vascular dementia in decade-long search. This could hold the key for much needed treatments.

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B cells, MS, and EBV Infections in Women

Researchers from the University of Western Australia who are funded by MSWA in various capacities, have found receptors that normally signal the presence of antibodies to stop the excessive immune response of B cells were lower in women with MS.

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Fast-tracking therapies for progressive MS

The International Progressive MS Alliance is focusing on treatments to protect and regrow myelin, and slow progression in MS.

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Does childhood diet impact future MS?

A recently published work by MSWA funded researcher Dr Lucinda Black from Curtin University suggests that dietary intake during childhood could affect the development of MS as an adult.

The results of Dr Black’s research study revealed that consuming fruit and yogurt across all of the age groups studied (6-20 years) and consuming legumes (such as lentils, beans and peas) between the ages of 11-15 years, was associated with a reduced risk of MS developing as an adult.

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Demystifying diet and nutrition in MS

These recent studies include investigating the effects of increasing dietary protein on MS, the impact of polyunsaturated fatty acids (in foods such as fish) on MS and how to improve food choices in people living with MS.

Some of this research is being conducted in WA by one of MSWA’s longstanding funded researchers, Dr Lucinda Black at Curtin University.

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MS medication successful in clinical trials

Ofatumumab, originally used as a cancer treatment, has been repurposed for use in relapsing remitting MS.

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AHSCT explained: What is its role in the arsenal against MS?

What role does Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (AHSCT) play in the arsenal against MS?

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How do additional medical conditions impact a person’s MS?

New studies investigate how common it is for people with MS to have additional medical conditions. How are they impacting MS symptoms and overall quality of life?

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Gut immune cells that travel to the brain may help resolve MS disease relapses

A particular type of gut microbiota-reactive immune cells that travel to the brain during MS relapses could be having a positive effect.

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Microscopic insights into the spine’s electrical circuit add piece to the MS puzzle

Loss of nerve cells has been thought to be a major cause of disability in MS, but evidence from spinal cord injury suggests this is not the whole story.

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A potential biomarker for progressive MS

The use of neurofilament light chain (NfL) as a biomarker could revolutionise clinical trials in progressive MS.

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No association between skin condition vitiligo and MS, study asserts

There is no significant association between MS and vitiligo, a skin condition in which patches of skin lose their colour, a review study has found.

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Recently identified subset of immune cells plays role in MS, study suggests

A newly identified population of immune cells contributes to inflammation in MS, a new study suggests.

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Association between Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) inhibitor exposure and inflammatory Central Nervous System (CNS) events

A study evaluated the association between TNF inhibitor exposure and inflammatory CNS events in patients with an autoimmune disease.

They found an unexpected increase of demyelinating and non-demyelinating of inflammatory CNS disease in patients on TNF inhibitors, a surprise because these drugs worsened MS when used in clinical trials.

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Dementia and subthalamic deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease

Dementia following bilateral deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) was evaluated in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This longitudinal study reviewed patients that were treated with STN-DBS over 10 years. The risk of dementia was 26% after 10 years and the incidence rate of dementia was lower than reported in other longitudinal studies of PD patients without DBS.

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New health conditions identified as part of the MS prodrome

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, can start years before clinical diagnosis and are often preceded by a range of health issues. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease may experience depression and constipation years before the classic symptoms, such as motor deficiencies, are detected. These early symptoms are collectively known as the “prodrome”.

According to this study, the most prevalent conditions among MS cases in the preceding five-year period before onset of classic symptoms (e.g. first demyelinating event) was pain, followed by sleep disorders, anaemia, and fatigue. The odds of having a sleep disorder were up to 161% higher in MS cases compared to controls, and the odds of experiencing pain were up to 115% higher.

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Long-term treatment with Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) continues to be safe and effective at reducing the frequency of relapses and disability progression in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).

Read MS News Today's article


New findings suggest delayed and reduced rates of pregnancy globally are likely associated with increased incidence of MS amongst women of a childbearing age.

Read MS Research Australia's article


The TGA has approved the first ever treatment – eculizumab (Soliris) – for an MS-like disease known as neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).

MS Research Australia is advocating for the new treatment to be included on the PBS.

Read MS Research Australia's article


The International Progressive MS Alliance has convened a panel of experts to evaluate the potential of ‘neurofilament light’ (NfL) as a way to easily and reliably track MS progression.

MSWA is proud to support the International Progressive Alliance through an allocation in our MSRA funding.

Read MS Australia's full article


Want to be part of the research? Find an MS trial to get involved in!

Find out more Find an MS trial in your region


A treatment used for cancer, autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (AHSCT) has been used to treat MS for many years. A study has been ongoing from 2005 to 2016 to compare AHSCT with other MS therapies.

The results of this trial, which were published in January 2019, showed that some patients receiving AHSCT had improvements in disability scores and significantly fewer relapses compared to those on standard MS medications.

Read MS Research Australia's article


Professor Michael Pender and Professor Rajiv Khanna, of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, have completed a small trial using adoptive T-cell immunology to target Epstein-Barr virus-infected B cells. Seven of 10 participants showed clinical improvements including reduction in disability and improvements in fatigue.

Read MS Research Australia's article


From 1 January 2019 people eligible for MAVENCLAD® for RRMS will pay a maximum of $39.50 per script, or $6.40 for concessional patients. Mavenclad® is used to treat people with relapsing remitting MS.

Read MS Australia's article


A study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, has found that herbicide linuron, may be an important environmental risk factor in the development of neurological diseases that include multiple sclerosis.

Read Beyond Pesticides' article


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