Window into blood cells may provide a view as to how MS progresses

25 May 2020

A current study into white blood cells known as ‘B Lymphocytes’ is giving Professor Prue Hart and her team of researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute more clues into how MS progresses, in a project funded by MSWA.

Professor Hart’s previous studies have found that the use of narrowband UVB treatment is effective in delaying the development of MS in a subset of high-risk individuals. Now Professor Hart and researchers Dr Stephanie Trend and Dr Jonatan Leffler are trying to discover which cells may be pathogenic and associated with the worsening of MS.

“Through the funding by MSWA we now have a frozen store of cells and serum from people who had the earliest forms of MS, as they have progressed to later forms,” said Professor Hart.

“If we know the clinical state, we can try and associate changes in blood cells with what happened during the trial. By looking at the properties, numbers and functions of the cells in the blood, we are trying to determine what mediators they may produce when they get into the central nervous system.”

“If we can pinpoint what we believe is a pathogenic cell, we can then search for drugs to block that cell type and then fine tune them in a therapy. For example, if we found a molecule in the cell, can we block it or remove it? There’s lots to try and always more questions to be asked.”

From here, Professor Hart and her team may be able to progress to a clinical trial.

“If there’s a change in symptoms in some participants, we can look at the ‘why’. By identifying the cells responsible for MS, we can look for treatments.”

MSWA CEO Marcus Stafford AM said he was pleased to be able to contribute funding to such important research.

“We’ve worked with Professor Hart since 2015 and her projects so far have provided excellent results. Her previous trial found that out of 10 people with a single episode of MS who were treated with UVB, 3 had halted MS progression.”

“UVB as a possible therapy to reduce the risk for individuals at-risk of developing MS is a fantastic find,” said Mr Stafford.

“Given Australians are exposed to some of the highest levels of UV in the world, it makes sense that UV research is done here in Australia. The knowledge gained may result in recommendations to reduce the risk of MS in those individuals seen as more susceptible. This information adds to the growing wealth of knowledge on why MS develops and progresses and how we can reduce risk and improve outcomes.”

“We’re looking forward to an update on this project as it progresses.”

Read about Professor Hart’s previous study on UV treatment: mswa.org.au/wa-researcher-finds-uv-delays-onset-of-ms