A team of researchers at Monash University led by Dr Steve Petratos, is one step closer to developing an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS), with the potential to reverse the effects of the disease.
In a trial conducted on paralysed mice, they observed the animals able to walk again after being given the drug Ditpa.
Dr Petratos told Neos Kosmos that while it is still early to know whether the treatment will be the breakthrough doctors and sufferers have been looking for, he is hopeful that further experiments will see the drug produce a regenerative outcome.
He revealed that he has just received a three year grant from the Trish MS Foundation and MS Research Australia that will give his team the chance to complete the experiments necessary to ensure the drug is ready for clinical trials on humans.
If they see promising results, the trials could be taking place in three to five years.
There is no current cure for MS, a condition that impacts the central nervous system and interferes with nerve impulses in the brain.
The condition can vary in severity, with symptoms including fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms and difficulty maintaining balance.
Dr Petratos is simultaneously working on other possible treatments for MS.
“I’m using Haematopoietic Stem Cells and genetically modifying those to produce a therapeutic protein, delivered directly into the brain and the spinal chord, and to modify the environment for regeneration as well,” which he says has shown “very outstanding and excellent outcomes”.
Meanwhile since 2018, Dr Petratos has had an ongoing collaboration with Dr Nikolaos Grigoriadis, who heads the Multiple Sclerosis Centre AHEPA in Thessaloniki, Greece.
“We’re excited by that collaboration. Hopefully it will expand over time,” he said.
There’s no denying that Dr Petratos is passionate about his work. Though he acknowledges there are unfortunately limitations, the biggest one being funding, which can make it difficult to bring available therapies to the clinic at a faster rate to help people sooner rather than later.
Despite this, he highlights that therapies for MS have come a long way in the last 20 years, and says the future is bright for new treatments.
“There is a lot of effort going into tackling the disease in terms of the unmet need – the progressive form of the disease. And in the next five to 10 years, you’ll see quite a few new therapies potentially come on the market for progressive MS,” Dr Petratos said.
* Interview by Maria Kampyli, written by Anastasia Tsirtsakis.