New research at The University of Melbourne is looking into the role copper plays in multiple sclerosis (MS) with a potential treatment on the horizon following similar research on motor neuron disease (MND).
Dr Peter Crouch and Dr James Hilton at The University of Melbourne say their research on motor neuron disease could uncover a treatment for multiple sclerosis by restoring bodily functions affected by copper changes.
Copper is needed in every cell of our bodies for survival and research has found diseases such as multiple sclerosis and motor neuron disease cause changes which affect important copper-dependent bodily functions.
Dr Crouch says the copper-dependent processes are disrupted in the brain and spinal cord, but a potential drug could penetrate and restore function.
“What we are really hoping is that the things that we’ve identified in motor neuron disease are going to be readily translatable to multiple sclerosis,” he says.
The team at The University of Melbourne is hoping the research will be well received by those living with multiple sclerosis.
“We think our research will improve the quality of life of people with MS by the focus of potential new therapeutic avenues, treating especially the progressive forms of MS, particularly primary progressive forms of MS which are more readily similar to motor neuron disease, which has been a focus of ours,” Mr Hilton says.
Mr Hilton says there’s still a lot to be learned on multiple sclerosis but the research has also helped them gain a greater understanding of the role of copper in the disease.
“We think that this offers a fresh perspective on the disease and we’re confident it will produce some important insights into the pathology.”
The research is funded by MS Research Australia after The University of Melbourne received a smaller incubator grant before promising results landed them a larger project grant.
Head of Research at MS Research Australia Dr Lisa Melton says they are excited but cautiously optimistic as the project is still in its early stages.
“We’re very excited about the progress they’re making.”
“What we’ve been really excited to see is the results they’ve had with their early-stage clinical trial in people with motor neuron disease because that study showed the drug is safe to use in humans, but what they've also seen is some encouraging results in slowing down degeneration in motor neuron disease,” she says.