ACT MS Symposium

Inflammation and brain health in multiple sclerosis: ACT MS Symposium wrap-up


ACT MS Symposium 2020 wrap-up and video links


The ACT MS Symposium 2020 was a great success! We feel very privileged to be a part of the multiple sclerosis (MS) community. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to go online this year, however this format for the first time allowed us to welcome attendees outside of the ACT. The Symposium boasted an impressive line-up of high quality national and international speakers, and over 200 people attended the symposium live over the five days, and many more will watch the recorded sessions (see links below). Our speakers presented across many hot topics in multiple sclerosis including brain inflammation and ageing, gut health and diet, exercise and vitamin D and updates on the International Progressive MS Alliance and MS International Federation's people with MS Advisory Committee (PMSAC). It was also exciting to hear the excellent work in MS that is happening at the Australian National University and beyond.  

We particularly would like to thank Tobias James for his work on the communications and media for the symposium.

It was a pleasure to be part of this engaged and passionate community. We look forward to doing it all again in 2021!


Dr Anne Bruestle
Our Health in Our Hands (OHIOH) MS Stream Lead

Dr Jo Lane
ACT MS Symposium 2020 Session Facilitator


You can see the recording for each of the MS Symposium session via the links below.

Brain inflammation and ageing

Inflammation and the brain

Dr Anne Bruestle, ANU, provides background on the structure of our brain, central nervous system and immune system, and discusses immune reactions in active MS lesions. Dr Bruestle uses this background information to provide context for available MS treatments, as well as providing a brief description of how some current MS treatments work.

Inflammation and the brain - ageing

Professor Nicolas Cherbuin, ANU, continues this research theme with a discussion on how ageing affects our brain, how this is related to inflammation, and what we can do about it. While MS is responsible for some inflammation, some is due to ageing and our lifestyle. The 'Our Health in Our Hands' ANU research initiative aims to untangle this relationship by following groups of people across time in a longitudinal study (people living with MS and people without MS), and calls for volunteers for this study.


Gut health and diet

Research insights: the gut microbiota and multiple sclerosis

Professor Helen Tremlett, University of British Colombia, provides research insights on gut microbiota and MS. Prof Tremlett discusses preliminary findings from studies investigating the difference in gut microbiota between people living with and without MS, and possible implications for future relapse events.

Diet and multiple sclerosis

As many as 40% of people with MS change their diet, according to Dr Lucinda Black, Curtin University. There are currently no targeted diet guidelines for people living with MS, however there are numerous trials underway. Dr Black discusses some of the diets currently promoted, and the need for a wide and balanced diet for people living with MS.


Exercise and vitamin D

Why is exercise nonnegotiable in Multiple Sclerosis?

Gill Davy, from MS Get a Head Start, demonstrates that regular exercise can help MS related fatigue, and can improve central nervous system integrity and function. Ms Davy discusses how to approach exercise i.e. intensity, frequency, specificity etc., in a bid to change the trajectory of MS progression.

Sun exposure, vitamin D, and Multiple Sclerosis

Professor Robyn Lucas, ANU, discusses the evidence that sun exposure reduces the risk of developing MS, and can delay the transition from CIS (clinically isolated syndrome) to MS. Sun exposure has the benefit of 'calming down' the immune system, and leads to the production of vitamin D. Prof Lucas discusses actions you can take to safely increase your sun exposure and vitamin D levels. A current study investigating this further will conclude at the end of the year, and more results will follow.


Update on the work of the International Progressive MS Alliance and MS International Foundation

Vanessa Fanning provides an overview of the International MS Alliance and MS International Foundation, whose mission is to accelerate the development of effective treatment and quality of life for people affected by Progressive MS. Dr Fanning also provides a summary of a number of recent and ongoing MS research they are undertaking. You can also download the slides from Professor Lueck's presentation on Uhthoff's Phenomenon here.


Our Health in Our Hands MS Stream Update

Our Health in Our Hands (OHIOH) aims to transform healthcare by developing new personalised health technologies and solutions in collaboration with people living with lived experience, clinicians and health care providers.

The study combines genomics and bioinformatics, big data, biomarker discovery and monitoring devices, and clinical cohort studies. A number of presentations were made in this session on the OHIOH project and current research including:

  • "Big data program" discussion, including medical machine learning to provide new insights into MS, by Associate Professor Hanna Suominen, ANU
  • Alternatives to MRI for diagnosing, tracking and predicting multiple sclerosis, by Dr Deborah Apthorp, ANU
  • Objective measures of disease status in Parkinson's diseases and parallels with MS, by Robin Vlieger, ANU
  • Embedding the health experience of people living with MS into OHIOH MS research, by Dr Jane Desborough, ANU
  • A discussion about MS treatments, their side effects, and current research to pioneer rapid treatment assessments for individuals living with MS, by Professor David Tscharke, ANU
  • An update on some of OHIOH MS research including on ELEVIDA; an online MS-related fatigue study and the ACT MS Cohort Study, by Dr Jo Lane, ANU.


Feedback from attendees

"Thank you so much. It's been a really great week of presentations."

"Thanks very much for your part in putting these sessions on. I am newly-diagnosed ... this has been very helpful to me in coming to terms with this."

"Thank you all so much. It has been very informative and enjoyable."

"Thank you so much for the hope!"

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