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Australian first –University of Sydney Professor wins prestigious Charcot Award

17th February, 2009

2009 Charcot Award winner
Professor John Prineas, Sydney University

Multiple Sclerosis International Federation announcement 17th February, London

The 2009 winner of the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation’s (MSIF) prestigious biennial Charcot Award for a lifetime achievement in research into the understanding or treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) is Professor John Prineas.

Multiple sclerosis is one of the most prevalent diseases of the central nervous system and directly affects an estimated 2 million people around the world. The cause of MS is not known.

Professor Prineas was selected from an outstanding field of candidates by an international panel of experts from MSIF’s International Medical and Scientific Board, chaired by Professor Alan Thompson.

“Prof Prineas’ research career has spanned more than 40 years and his work on myelin destruction has been a central theme. He began his medical training at the University of Sydney, Australia and moved to London in the mid 1960s to continue his advanced medical training and specialization in neurology. In 1967 he travelled to USA where he was mentored by Labe Scheinberg, a pioneer in the clinical care of MS, and in that year also received a postdoctoral fellowship from the National MS Society. In 1974, he was appointed Professor at the Department of Neurosciences, University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey Medical School, USA.

Professor Prineas published a landmark paper in 1979 providing EM evidence that repair to myelin can occur in MS plaques and in 1993 he further demonstrated that remyelination can occur normally within the central nervous system. Subsequently, Professor Prineas demonstrated the ability of oligodendrocytes to regenerate in MS. This work has opened up new therapeutic avenues for exploration. He is also a senior advisor on the ‘MS lesion project’.

More recently, Professor Prineas with Dr Barnett has published a study (Annals of Neurology 2004) describing Oligodendrocyte apoptosis occurring in MS lesions prior to any evidence of inflammation. This has not only expanded the knowledge of the underlying pathology of MS but challenged more traditionally held concepts of the development of the MS lesion.

Following a 25 year career in research, teaching and treating people with MS, Prof Prineas returned to his native Australia where he is now Professor of Neurology at the Institute of Clinical neurosciences, University of Sydney. Since then he has remained active in research of the pathology of the early lesion in MS.

He is a treasured resource and an inspiration to all involved in the investigation of MS.”

Dr Bill Carroll
Chairman of Research, MS Research Australia

“Whilst the critical role of experimental neuropathology in understanding the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis was well established in the 19th century, it had reduced in importance as discipline in the 1960-70s and the subsequent re-flowering of tissue based accounts of multiple sclerosis was largely enabled by the efforts of a very few experimental neuropathologists amongst whom John Prineas was a key figure.

Specifically, Prineas’s application of experimental observations on the morphological features of thin myelin sheaths with short internodes established the reality of remyelination as a feature of the multiple sclerosis lesion, resolving ambiguity on the nature of the shadow plaque, and contributing in part to launch of the modern era of neurobiology in which precursor and stem cell biology now play such a prominent role.”

Alastair Compston
Professor and Head of Department of Clinical Neurosciences
2007 winner of the Charcot Award