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Potential new multiple sclerosis treatment on the way as rates spike

There has been a 30 per cent jump in MS cases in Australia with about 33,335 living with MS in 2021.

There has been a 30 per cent jump in MS cases in Australia with about 33,335 living with MS in 2021. Photo: AP

More than 30,000 Australians living with multiple sclerosis could get access to a potential new treatment as experts say a breakthrough may be on the horizon.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide will use genetically modified mice to test whether proteins can be targeted to divert cells that cause the chronic autoimmune disease from entering the brain.

Drugs that specifically target these proteins to block their function will then be used and if successful, could lead to life-changing medicine.

MS is a disease caused by nerve damage in the brain and spinal cord which affects the central nervous system and muscle control.

It causes the immune system to attack myelin, which is the protective layer around nerve fibres, resulting in communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body.

Lead researcher Iain Comerford, who secured $246,953 in funding from MS Australia, said the study was essential in better understanding MS, which still has no cure.

“This research is important because if it is successful then it could lead to the development of new drugs that can better treat MS,” Dr Comerford said.

The number of Australians living with MS, which may be caused by genetic or environmental factors, has increased in recent years, according to MS Australia.

About 33,335 Australians were living with MS in 2021, a 30 per cent increase from 25,607 in 2017.

The three-year study is one of 22 new projects being funded by MS Australia this year.

The Department of Health and Aged Care said the federal government is committed to improving health outcomes for people living with MS.

As of December last year, the government invested $15.4 million in four grants with a focus on MS research through the Medical Research Future Fund.

“Support for people living with chronic conditions, including Multiple Sclerosis (MS), is provided through ongoing universal health programs, including rebated medical services through the Medicare Benefits Schedule and subsidised medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme,” a spokeswoman said.

-AAP

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