The main focus of Dr Greer’s lab is diseases affecting the nervous system, particularly those in which the immune system plays (or may play) a role. The major diseases that the lab focuses on are multiple sclerosis (MS) and schizophrenia. 

A major aim of the research is to determine what role antibodies directed against different parts of the brain play in each of these diseases. 

What are antibodies?

Antibodies are produced by your immune system, and their role is to target and destroy things that might harm you, such as bacteria and viruses. Sometimes, however, the normal control mechanisms within the immune system fail, and people start to make antibodies that target their own bodies (auto-antibodies). 

Research aims

Auto-antibodies have been previously identified in people with MS and schizophrenia. 
Dr Greer’s lab aims to prove whether or not these auto-antibodies play a role in the development of these diseases. 

Project grants

This work is currently funded by two grants from the NHMRC and a grant from the National MS Society in the USA. 

The MS work is carried out in collaboration with the MS Clinic at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital (RBWH), and the schizophrenia work involves collaborations with psychiatrists from RBWH, the Princess Alexandria Hospital and from the Queensland Brain Institute.

Additional research

Another major interest of Greer’s laboratory is the development of new therapeutic agents for treatment of MS. In a project funded by MS Research Australia, the lab is currently collaborating with researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to develop novel drugs derived from parasitic worms. 

Understanding the role that mutations in a gene called NFKBIA play in MS is also a focus for the lab. This gene plays a critical role in controlling inflammation and the immune response. Researchers within Greer’s lab have found mutations in this gene appear to correlate with a greater level of degeneration within the nervous system (and subsequently a worse disease course) in patients who carry the mutations.