Multiple system atrophy

HEALTH INFORMATION

Understanding why and how MSA occurs

WHAT WE KNOW

Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a progressive degenerative neurological disorder that affects adult men and women, usually in their 50s or 60s. It is caused by degeneration or atrophy of nerve cells in specific areas of the brain. It is still unclear as to why cells become damaged in people with MSA and further research needs to be conducted into why and how this happens.

The shrinking of the cells can cause problems with movement, balance and autonomic functions of the body such as bladder and blood pressure control.

Symptoms may include fainting spells and problems with heart rate, erectile dysfunction, and bladder control. Motor impairments (ie, loss of or limited muscle control or movement, or limited mobility) may include tremor, rigidity, and/or loss of muscle coordination as well as difficulties with speech and gait (the way a person walks).

The clinical features of MSA overlap with those of Parkinson’s disease, and for this reason, early cases of MSA are often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. We now know that the feature that definitively identifies MSA pathology is the buildup of a protein called alpha-synuclein in oligodendrocytes, the support cells of the brain.

These cells are responsible for producing myelin, which is the specialised membrane that encases the nerve fibres in the brain. The alpha-synuclein protein buildups in the brain of people with MSA mean that the oligodendrocytes cannot properly make myelin, and without myelin the neurons will degenerate and eventually die.

The cause of MSA is unknown, no specific risk factors have been identified, and there is no cure or effective treatment. Treatment for MSA includes medications and lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms. The condition progresses gradually and eventually leads to death.

What else is happening in Multiple system atrophy research at NeuRA?

FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

LEAD!- Leveraging Evidence into Action on Dementia

Currently, there is no effective treatment for dementia, highlighting the urgent need to preventing more cases through evidence-based strategies for risk reduction. As there is an overlap between the risk factors for dementia and other preventable non-communicable diseases including stroke, diabetes, and heart disease, it is important to build upon proven risk-reduction strategies. What is LEAD? LEAD! is a project funded by the NHMRC Boosting Dementia Research Grant led by Professor Kaarin Anstey. It involves an international collaboration between leading academics, clinicians, consumers, and community members. Organisations involved include the Department of Health, WHO, Dementia Australia, Alzheimer’s Disease International, Diabetes Australia, and Heart Foundation. The project aims to translate dementia research and implement evidence-based strategies for dementia risk reduction to individuals, communities, and healthcare centres. Three workstreams The project has three concurrent workstreams over five years: Development, Implementation, and Evaluation and adoption. The Development stream, led by Professor Kaarin Anstey and Associate Professor Peters, focuses on building a new tool for predicting dementia and other non-communicable diseases including stroke, diabetes or myocardial infarction. The tool will be available to the public, researchers and clinicians. It will save clinical assessment time, accurately predict multiple outcomes and will be more acceptable in comparison to using individual tools for each disease outcome. The Implementation stream led by Professor Nicola Lautenschalger’s team at the University of Melbourne, will develop strategies to support the implementation of dementia risk reduction evidence by engaging with consumers, clinicians, policy makers, and the public. The stream will develop strategies for incorporating the new risk assessment tool into various technological platforms (e.g., websites or apps). The Evaluation and adoption stream, led by Professor Anstey and in collaboration with Professor Louisa Jorm and Dr Heidi Welberry at UNSW, focuses on measuring trajectories of Australian’s national risk factor profiles for multiple chronic diseases. Collaboration with key stakeholders including the WHO will help build an evaluation framework and methodology for implementing evidence on dementia risk reduction based on WHO guidelines at national level and in the global context.
PROJECT