Australian scientists have found a promising method of preventing the progression of multiple sclerosis

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Scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have developed a new drug-like molecule which can halt inflammation and has shown promise in preventing the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Dr Ueli Nachbur, Associate Professor John Silke, Associate Professor Guillaume Lessene, Professor Andrew Lew and colleagues say the molecule inhibits a key signal which triggers inflammation.

Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease which damages the central nervous system including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. There is no cure.

“Inflammation results when our immune cells release hormones called cytokines, which is a normal response to disease,” Dr Nachbur said. “However when too many cytokines are produced, inflammation can get out-of-control and damage our own body, all of which are hallmarks of immune or inflammatory diseases.”

To apply the brakes on this runaway immune response, institute researchers developed a small drug-like molecule called WEHI-345 that binds to and inhibits a key immune signalling protein called RIPK2. This prevents the release of inflammatory cytokines.

The molecule is seen as a great starting point for a drug discovery program which may one day lead to new treatments for MS and other inflammatory diseases.

The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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