Multiple Sclerosis

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system and can, to varying degrees, interfere with the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Since identification, MS has been the subject of intense, world-wide research but its cause and cure remain elusive. Recurring episodes of MS can cause scars to appear in the central nervous system as a result of the breakdown of myelin, the insulating material that covers nerve fibres. This can result in impairment of motor, sensory and cognitive functions. In rare cases MS can be benign - apparently disappearing altogether after one or two episodes. More commonly it progresses steadily over many years, bringing about a slow deterioration in an individual's capabilities.

MS is often a frustratingly unpredictable disease. Episodes can occur at varying time intervals affecting different areas of the central nervous system. There is no one symptom that indicates the presence of MS. No single test can establish an accurate diagnosis.

Multiple Sclerosis research at Menzies

Despite very significant advances in the treatment and understanding of Multiple Sclerosis in the last decade, the burden remains high. MS is becoming more common and researchers are unsure why. There is currently no known cure for MS.

At Menzies we have a vision to conduct research across the full spectrum - from basic discoveries to testing effectiveness of interventions through to the implementation of research into practice.  Our aim is to make a major difference worldwide to people living with MS, slowing the onset and rate of the disease’s progression and reducing its impact on patients, families and society. We have laid the foundations for this with our record of research and the depth of our collaborations.

Since 1998 Menzies researchers and their collaborators have made significant contributions to understanding the genetic, environmental and lifestyle risk factors for both the development and progression of MS. Our clinical work informs the research into the cause, disease progression and management of MS while our cell-based research is helping to lay a foundation for translation into drug therapies. We manage Australia’s largest cohort study of people with MS (the Australian MS Longitudinal Study). This research provides other researchers, advocacy groups and government agencies with practical information on how MS is impacting on people’s lives.

Tasmania is the ideal location for MS translational research. The rate of MS is greater in Tasmania than anywhere else in Australia because of our distance from the equator. We have above average community participation in research, excellent genealogical records, and a relatively stable population base.

Multiple Sclerosis Facts

  • MS affects more than 23,000 Australians and two million people worldwide
  • Australia-wide three out of every four people diagnosed are women
  • Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20-40
  • The incidence of MS increases by 4% each year.
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) costs Australia more than $1 billion annually

This disease is being researched in the following projects:

Research Projects at Menzies