Leaving MS Behind

October 20, 2020
Research Stories

He’s a keen runner, practises one of the oldest surviving Japanese martial arts—Katori Shinto Ryu—and is driven by his curiosity for the immune system.


That drive has gained Kevin Hendrawan—a PhD candidate at St Vincent’s Centre for Applied Medical Research (AMR)—a grant of $14K from the Arrow Foundation Special Grants fund.


Kevin will use his grant to purchase cytokine detection kits. These kits are used in his investigation into how autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) improves clinical outcomes in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease of the brain and spinal cord.


What is AHSCT?


AHSCT is a process which has caught considerable interest in the medical community as a therapeutic option for patients with aggressive autoimmune disease. It involves eradicating the patient’s defective immune system using high-dose chemotherapy and replacing it by transplanting the patient’s own adult bone marrow stem cells. Put simply, it “re-boots” a patient’s immune system.

“While our immune system is important for eliminating harmful foreign molecules and/or microbes (like the virus causing COVID-19), it is equally important that it does not attack our own cells and organs,” explains Kevin.

“This balance is in-part maintained by immune-suppressive cells known as T regulatory cells (or Tregs). In autoimmune diseases, this balance is disturbed due to the impaired function of Tregs, which results in our immune system turning against our own cells.”


What role will the cytokines kits play?


Kevin studies Treg regeneration by investigating cytokines in a patient’s blood following AHSCT. Cytokines are signaling molecules that are secreted by immune cells to coordinate immune responses. There are cytokines that can initiate the immune system (inflammatory) and others that can suppress it (anti-inflammatory).

“Following AHSCT, we hypothesise that these inflammatory cytokines are suppressed, which may coincide with an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokines. This anti-inflammatory shift may allow Tregs to regain their important suppressive functions and contribute to clinical improvement following AHSCT,” said Kevin


Cytokines in patient blood are measured using a multiplex cytokine detection kit. This kit allows Kevin to quantify multiple cytokines simultaneously in a small amount of patient blood.

“I am very thankful that the Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation was able to support this important and interesting work.


“And the importance cannot be underestimated. Tregs are a possible candidate for future cell therapy which could reduce the need for high-dose chemotherapy, which is not ideal for patients due to the side-effects associated with its toxicity.”


And he’s keen to spread the word. Take a look at this video Kevin directed for a Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia competition.


It’s about how his lab is “Leaving MS behind”.

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