A new drug to tackle the side effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) will be safer and more effective than current approaches, its West Australian developers say.

MS is a life-long chronic inflammatory and degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that impacts 23,000 Australians and more than two million worldwide.

The inflammation causes lesions in the covering that protects the nerves fibres in the brain, affecting movement capability.

There is currently no cure for MS.

Dr Rakesh Veedu from Murdoch University’s Centre for Comparative Genomics said it was a research priority to find for a treatment for chronic inflammation to ease suffering.

Along with Professor Steve Wilton, Dr Veedu is developing a new drug and drug delivery method to treat inflammation in a more targeted manner.

“One particular protein plays a crucial role in inflammation. So in our research we are developing an innovative DNA enzyme that prevents high levels of this protein to tackle the inflammation,” Dr Veedu said.

“Once we develop this DNA enzyme, we can then attach it with another molecule that is specifically designed to target the correct cells.”

New approach ‘has minimal side-effects’

Dr Veedu said available drugs had been shown to reduce relapse rates, but there were still several unresolved issues, including dangerous long-term side effects and poor delivery efficacy.

“This method will be a safer approach to deliver target specific therapy towards the treatment of MS. It will also will maximise efficacy and minimise toxicity and adverse side effects,” he said.

“This is first time DNA enzymes have been studied in this way and we have some preliminary data to support our hypothesis,” Dr Veedu said.

Professor Wilton’s research also aims to validate alternative drugs to suppress inflammation.

“Patients with MS are currently prescribed with disease modifying drugs to reduce inflammation; however, the side effects associated with these drugs raises safety concerns,” he said.

Professor Wilton said there was no treatment to reverse the neuronal damage that occurred in the brain and spinal cord.

“We must find methods to promote the restoration of nerve function in these areas,” he said.

Murdoch University will own the drug intellectual property and work with pharmaceutical companies to commercialise the substance once proven.

The university’s Centre for Comparative Genomics was recently awarded $75,000 by MS Research Australia for the studies.

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