More brains needed to beat multiple sclerosis

Researchers believe the MS Brain Bank, a new facility based at the University of Sydney for the collection of brain tissue, could significantly advance our understanding of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The facility, opened today by Verity Firth, the NSW Minister for Science and Medical Research, will allow scientists to look at tissue from the brain and central nervous system of both people with MS and without MS.

"MS is the most common cause of chronic neurological disability in young adults, with more than 18,000 Australians diagnosed," Ms Firth said at the launch at the Brain and Mind Institute

Multiple sclerosis, or 'multiple scarring', unpredictably affects many body functions, and damage can be cumulative. Australian scientists lead world research in many aspects of MS, but without access to real cells, there are limitations on what can be achieved.

"So far in Australia, brains recovered from deceased MS patients have been very few," the MS Brain Bank's Director, the University of Sydney's Prof Simon Hawke said. "We are now calling on those with and without MS, regardless of age or medical condition, to promise their brain today, so it can be used by science tomorrow, when the donor no longer needs it.

"So far research has relied on animal models with limited success as it does not accurately reflect the some aspects of MS in people. Now, this MS Brain Bank will provide the right tissue for scientists around Australia doing advanced MS research."

"This facility should give our researchers an edge," said Jeremy Wright executive director of Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia. "It is crucial for us to support this research and we are pleased that, to assist the process, the NSW Office of Science and Medical Research has offered a $500,000 matching grant for the facility."

The facility brings together researchers at the University of Sydney, the Westmead Millennium Institute, the University of NSW, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

It has been initiated by MS Research Australia (MSRA) with support from the University of Sydney, the Trish Foundation and the Collier Charitable Trust (a Victorian-based Foundation). It will work in conjunction with the Australian Brain Bank Network, which helps coordinate the collection of brains for the understanding many diseases.

Sydney University is well placed when it comes to MS research. With a base at the University's Brain and Mind Research Institute, the MS Brain Bank will be able to draw on the expertise of several key MS researchers and supporters including:

  • Professor John Prineas, who is a world leader in MS neuropathology who is trying to understand the early changes that take place in the brains of People with MS.
  • Dr Michael Barnett who has recently taken a new post at Sydney University to develop a MS research team.
  • Professor John Pollard, who is a stalwart in MS research having contributed to research and treatment over the course of long career.
  • Professor Simon Hawke, who has come from working at the UK MS Tissue Bank with direct experience running a Brain Bank.
  • Professor Bruce Robinson, Dean of Medicine, who supported its development at Sydney University.
  • Professor Clive Harper and Professor David Burke who have supported the development of the MS Brain and Bank and provided the support of the Australia Brain Bank Network.

For information call Feehan Communications 9267 2711 or email

Posted in: Medical Research News

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