Multiple Sclerosis

What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

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. Despite major advances in the treatment of MS, it remains an incurable and often progressive disease with significant personal and societal impacts.

MS affects more than 25,607 Australians and over 2.8 million people worldwide, with a 4% increase each year. In Tasmania, we have the highest number of MS diagnosis in the country, with approximately 138.7 people diagnosed per 100,000. This unique concentration in Tasmania is one of the reasons why the Menzies Institute conducts internationally significant MS research to improve the lives of Tasmanians living with MS.

Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20-40, and women account for three out of every four diagnoses. Our research also shows that the overall cost of MS increased by 41% between 2010 and 2017 and that MS now costs Australia $1.75 billion annually ($68,382 per person living with MS), with the increased cost being directly linked to increased disability.

There is currently no established way to prevent, mitigate or reverse disability accumulation in people living with MS. Despite significant advances in the MS research field, few new discoveries have been able to effectively treat disability.

The MS Research Flagship

The MS Research Flagship is a Flagship program of the University of Tasmania, College of Health and Medicine and was established from a long history of MS research at Menzies Institute for Medical Research. Menzies has proudly been at the forefront of research advancements in MS for twenty years. Our scientists, in collaboration with other researchers around the world, have been responsible for many of the breakthroughs in MS research, including the link between UV exposure (Vitamin D) and a reduced risk of MS.

The MS Research Flagship is a hub of interdisciplinary MS research, knowledge, knowledge translation and support within Menzies, which builds momentum across the wider MS community, nationally and internationally, towards improving outcomes for people living with MS and ultimately curing MS.

The MS Research Flagship utilises the unique concentration of people living with MS and MS research in Tasmania. Our program is strongly connected with national and international MS researchers, collaborators, MS societies and people living with MS, and works to address the gaps in MS assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. The goal of the MS Research Flagship is to perform high-quality, interdisciplinary, and consumer-engaged research designed to reduce the impact of MS on individuals, their families and society. We also manage Australia’s largest cohort study of people with MS (the Australian MS Longitudinal Study). This research provides advocacy groups, government agencies, and other researchers with practical information on how MS is impacting on people’s lives.

There are currently nearly 50 researchers and professional staff working within the MS Research Flagship.

Our Research Areas

Among the breadth of work undertaken by the MS Research Flagship, there are five main research areas, each led by a specific team leader:

‘Understanding MS’ Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

This free online course is offered in collaboration with MS Limited and was ranked in the top 10 online courses of all time in 2020. It is a major component of the MS Research Flagship and aims to improve understanding and awareness of MS. Members of the public can increase their knowledge of MS-related issues and those in the MS community will be empowered to create and contribute to personalised MS management plans. If you’re interested in this free online course, you can sign up here: https://ms.mooc.utas.edu.au/.

Consumer and Community Engagement

We understand the importance of MS community engagement and participation, with community consultation at the heart of the program. The MS Research Flagship has established a Consumer and Community Reference Committee chaired by Associate Professor Des Graham, President of MS Australia and a person living with MS. The Committee gives members of the MS community the chance to have their say and, where appropriate, input into all current and future MS research activities undertaken by the MS Research Flagship and their collaborators.

Stay Connected and Get Involved

There are several ways for you to stay connected and get involved with the MS Research Flagship:

  1. Sign up for the newsletter by emailing: SM-MSResearch.Engagement@utas.edu.au
  2. Enrol in the Understanding MS course here:
    https://ms.mooc.utas.edu.au/
  3. Like the Understanding MS Facebook page here:
    https://www.facebook.com/UnderstandingMultipleSclerosis/
  4. Follow the Menzies Institute for Medical Research on social media:
    Twitter – https://twitter.com/researchmenzies?lang=en
    Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MenziesResearch/
  5. Register your interest to get involved in workshops, focus groups, community consultations or advisory groups to contribute to MS research. Send an email to SM-MSResearch.Engagement@utas.edu.au
  6. Donate to help us continue undertaking life-changing MS research:
    https://www.menzies.utas.edu.au/get-involved/donate-today

Contact Details:

Consumer Engagement: Please contact the Consumer and Community Engagement Manager, Viv Jones via email vivienne.jones@utas.edu.au.

General Enquiries: Please contact the Program Manager, Natasha Stevens, via email natasha.stevens@utas.edu.au

Media Enquiries: Please contact Institute Communications Officer, Jacob Foreman via email jacob.foreman@utas.edu.au

Acknowledgements

The MS Research Flagship is funded by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC); MS Research Australia (MSRA); Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation (RHHRF); the Irene Phelps Charitable Trust, the University of Tasmania, the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and philanthropic donations and bequests, and is supported by organisations such as MS Limited and MS Australia.