Study to help prevent blindness in optic neuritis patients

30 June 2015
Preventing blindness

Researchers at the Kids Research Institute may soon be able to save the vision of adults and children suffering from optic neuritis thanks to a new study that will allow them to provide better treatments to patients based on an antibody in the blood.

The nationwide study, titled MOG antibody: a biomarker of bilateral and relapsing optic neuritis, will involve testing patients with recurring optic neuritis for the myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) antibody, an antibody that attacks the optic nerve, and delivering immune suppressive therapy to MOG antibody-positive patients.

Dr Fabienne Brilot-Turville is leading the three-year study, which received a $220,000 project grant from MS Research Australia.

“Optic neuritis is one of the most common demyelinating attacks,” Dr Brilot-Turville said, “It causes disturbed visual function and if left untreated, can result in progressive and permanent neurological deficits with severe disability, and blindness. This study means we will be able to detect the MOG antibody which will help us to provide a better treatment to reduce the optic neuritis attacks, and therefore save the vision of these patients."

The study will also enable researchers to examine the efficacy of long term immune suppression in MOG antibody-positive patients.

Dr Brilot-Turville and Professor Russell Dale first discovered the significance of the MOG antibody as biomarker last year when they found children and adults with relapsing demyelinating disorders who tested positive for the antibody suffered from a previously unreported form of optic neuritis even though symptoms are typically indicative of MS.

“Knowing which patients are at risk for MS and which patients are at risk of relapsing optic neuritis is critical as treatments between the two differ greatly and the MOG antibody is an essential biomarker in making that distinction,” Dr Brilot-Turville said.

Dr Matthew Miles, Chief Executive Officer of MS Research Australia said, “Receiving a diagnosis of MS at any stage in life is awful but to be told your child has a demyelinating disease would be absolutely devastating. Dr Brilot-Turville and Professor Dale have been taking great steps towards reducing the burden of these diseases, by helping to refine our understanding of the differences between MS and other demyelinating diseases, and changing the way these diseases are managed in children and adults.”

The study commenced in January 2015, and recruitment is occurring via a national network of neurologists from all major Australian teaching Hospitals.

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