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submitted by Kytherian Newsflash on 02.02.2011

Award for medical research pioneer, Professor John Prineas

Award for medical research pioneer, Professor John Prineas - Professor John Prineas

Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Reporter: Branwen Morgan


Professor John Prineas has spent almost fifty years conducting research into MS (Source: MS Research Australia/YouTube)

Australia Day honours Doctors from various fields of medicine have been recognised in today's Australia Day Honours list.

Professor John Prineas, who specialises in neurology, has been made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his multiple sclerosis (MS) research.

Prineas has spent almost fifty years trying to understand the basis of the disease, in which nerve cells are gradually destroyed by a process called demyelination. MS affects an estimated 2 million people around the world and causes gradual disability.

Prineas, now an Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney, where he was also a young medical student, says he is absolutely delighted to receive this honour.
"It is not just for me; it's a recognition of the all people and the groups I've worked with. And it's a terrific thing for the neurologists in Sydney," says Prineas.

The first of Prineas's seminal discoveries was published in 1979 in the journal Science. He produced evidence that the myelin sheath that coats and protects a nerve cell - like insulation tape - can regenerate.

In 1993, he demonstrated that the cells which make myelin, called oligodendrocytes, are recruited to sites of damage. These observations around the capacity of the nervous system to repair itself underpin today's 'remyelination' therapies for MS.
But it's his love of microscopes and desire to observe everything under a lens that has changed the course of MS research.

"We used to think that MS was an autoimmune condition, where the body's own immune system turns on itself and destroys the myelin," says Prineas. "But by examining tissue from people who have died when the disease is in its very early stages, we've shown that the myelin is not targeted in this way; rather the oligodendrocytes are committing suicide by apoptosis [programmed cell death]. And we don't know the trigger for this. So, now we have a whole new set of questions."

In 2009, Prineas was the first Australian to receive the biennial MS International Federation Charcot Award for lifetime achievement in research into the understanding or treatment of multiple sclerosis. He has treated a multitude of patients during his clinical career and authored more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

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