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Funding Boost for Multiple Sclerosis Research

25th January, 2012

The MS Research Australia Brain Bank will receive a $500,000 grant from the NSW Government, which will allow researchers to utilise advanced technologies and directly target new treatments, the Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, Jillian Skinner, said today.

Based at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute, this dedicated facility has already made significant contributions to MS research, since it was established in 2007.

In line with the NSW Government’s record commitment to medical research, the funding will allow the MS Research Australia brain bank to continue collecting MS brain tissue from donated brains.

This funding will help the brain bank in various stages of the process - from encouraging people with MS to consider pledging their brain tissue, retrieving the tissue when they die, classifying the brain for disease level, and lastly, to facilitate distribution of tissue to labs across Australia for individual research projects.

The new funding will especially bolster the classification stage. This is crucial, as it determines where the active MS lesions are located in the brain, providing the acute MS tissue that is vital for new discoveries.

Mrs Skinner said she was pleased to be able to provide the grant for this important research.

'The collection of MS brain tissue will help accelerate MS research activity in NSW and around Australia, and in turn, will particularly focus on determining the cause of MS, that will in turn help develop more effective therapies,' Mrs Skinner said.

'The MS Research Australia Brain Bank already has about 1600 people already who have now agreed to donate their brains and spinal cords and an actual collection of 30 complete brain samples have been received and are made available to researchers,' she said.

Director of the MS Research Australia Brain Bank and Senior Lecturer in Neurology at University of Sydney, Dr Michael Barnett, said the funding for the MS Research Australia Brain Bank will now enable MS researchers to utilise advanced technologies, such as proteomics and genomics – to better study the complex biochemistry of MS – and directly target new treatments.

'Human tissue provides researchers with an invaluable tool with which to explore the cause of MS. The neuropathological interrogation of acute MS tissue has already provided impetus for a vital change in the direction of MS research,' Dr Barnett said.

'This new grant will hasten the translation towards solving this disease, as there is no animal model that faithfully replicates the clinical or pathological features of MS. The importance of this resource cannot be underestimated.'

The Chief Executive of MS Research Australia, Jeremy Wright, said the funding from the NSW Government was critical to allow MS research to continue.

'Researchers at the University of Sydney have already led the world in identifying the earliest stages of MS and this grant will allow us to translate this knowledge into more effective treatments,' Mr Wright said.