image of assessing brain scan

Researchers banking on new ways to treat multiple sclerosis

30 May 2023
Collaboration with MS Australia Brain Bank for new prevention and treatment of multiple sclerosis
Basic discovery research from a team at the School of Medical Sciences could lay the groundwork for future possibilities for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

By enabling the brain’s repair process, a team of School of Medical Science researchers led by Associate Professor Laura Piccio and Dr Claire Goldsbury hope that their research can be a gateway to new prevention and treatment options.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common chronic neurological disease of young adults in Australia. It can cause severe neurological impairment and disability.

In the last two decades, there has been a dramatic improvement in treatments for the relapsing form of MS, but treatments for neurodegeneration from progressive MS remain inadequate and there is not yet a cure.

To solve unmet needs in MS, post-mortem human brain and spinal tissue are critical. That’s where the MS Australia Brain Bank comes in.

A collaboration with the University of Sydney, MS Australia and Sydney Local Health District, the Brain Bank collects brain tissue from patients with MS.

The Brain Bank is known internationally for its impeccable sample characterisation and organisation, which is often a complex process.

The team study the role of a protein located on the surface of the central nervous system’s primary immune cells called TREM2.


TREM2-expressing immune cells infiltrating MS brain tissue. Imaging performed at the Sydney Microscopy & Microanalysis (SMM), Core Research Facilities. Honours student Yvonne Aguirre Candia contributed to this work.

TREM2 is thought to be important for clearing debris and may assist the repair process that needs to occur after the insulating fatty (myelin) layers around nerves are damaged in MS.

Additionally, TREM2 might be important for the brain to regenerate these insulating layers.

Associate Professor Piccio’s first results from examining human spinal fluid suggest that this protein (TREM2) is a key player in MS.

In a mouse model, her team’s results show that activating TREM2 may help the insulating layer to regenerate after injury.           

Originally funded by a pilot grant, the team’s research has been so successful that they won ongoing funding.

They will expand their findings by evaluating how the protein manifests in different types of MS and normal appearing tissues from the Brain Bank.

People with MS can donate their brain tissue to the MS Brain Bank as a final gift to others with MS and their families.

They hope that this gift will lead to better treatments, improved understanding and a cure for others. 

Find out more about the MS Australia Brain Bank

Related articles