MS Research Australia was launched as a small group in 2004 and has evolved to become the country’s primary non-government national organisation dedicated to funding and coordinating MS research. Over the past decade, it has been the key driver in clinical advancements for MS patients, unravelling the complexities of the disease and accelerating investigation into the cause, better treatments, and prevention.

In Australia, 23,000 people have been diagnosed with MS. It is the most common acquired neurological disease affecting young adults, often diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, and it affects three times more women than men. MS is the result of damage to myelin—a protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system. When myelin is damaged, this interferes with messages between the brain and other parts of the body. The symptoms are different for each person, and may vary within the same person; but for everyone, it makes life unpredictable.

In November last year, MS Research Australia celebrated 10 years of groundbreaking discoveries and advancements. The anniversary presented an ideal opportunity for the organisation to reflect on its most significant achievements. Some of these include: contributing to the identification of well over 100 genes to help target improved treatment options; establishing in 2008 a scientific research Brain Bank to consensually collect brain tissue from people with MS who have passed away; identifying a link between a lack of sunlight and the development of the disease; and also helping to facilitate a nationwide survey-based research platform called the Australian MS Longitudinal Study, which is providing valuable and insightful data on the day-to-day challenges of living with MS.

CEO Dr Matthew Miles says it is always a highlight when people with MS talk about what a diagnosis feels like today compared to what it was like in the past. Treatments have dramatically changed since the early days when the only options were injectable medications. Now many alternatives are available, including oral medications and infrequent infusions. These newer options provide an important choice for people with relapsing–remitting MS and greatly increase the possibility for people with MS to find a medication suited to them that provides substantial control of their MS. “Medical research has delivered some of the world’s greatest breakthroughs, and MS research is certainly no different,” Dr Miles notes. “MS is one of the areas of medicine in which there have been dramatic advances in recent years.”

“Medical research has delivered some of the world’s greatest breakthroughs, and MS research is certainly no different.” – Dr Matthew Miles

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