When I was a younger post-doctoral researcher I could recite the specific manuscript, author, journal and year of publication of a research studies in my field which some of my colleagues would find amusing.
As an undergraduate student I was always intrigued by how the immune system interacted positively and negatively with the brain. Since the start of my research career, I have been driven by a desire to provide a better quality of life for people living with MS. I have always promised myself that I will never give up investigating the devastating disease that my grandfather lived with for most of his life.
My own personal view is that the most exciting thing in MS research is yet to occur. However, the most inspiring work has derived from one of the doyens of glial cell biology namely Professor Ben Barres whom recently passed away following his own battle with pancreatic cancer late last year. His inspirational research on glial cell (support cells of the brain) communication has influenced my own work in this field.
MS commonly occurs due to the specific destruction of the protective sheath of nerve fibres, known as myelin, by immune cells, which mistakenly attack this structure. However, it has been shown that MS does not only consist of this disease pattern but is a multifactorial disease with continual destruction of the nerve fibres and myelin even without large numbers of immune cells invading the brain and the spinal cord. Importantly, the molecules which may contribute or initiate such damage in MS are becoming known and by targeting these molecules during MS it may be possible to limit the destruction which occurs to nerve fibres and their protective myelin sheaths in the brain and spinal cord, promoting a better clinical outcome for individuals living with MS. We will investigate how damage occurs in myelinated nerve fibres with progressive clinical symptoms in experimental animal models of MS. We will overcome the deficits that propagate myelinated nerve fibre degeneration using a drug, which has been clinically tested to reach the brain and spinal cord. We will also investigate the drug’s ability to elicit repair of the MS-like brain from immature cells known as ‘stem cells’ as a proof-of-principle preclinical trial. The knowledge generated from this project may be the basis for future clinical trials in patients with progressive MS, in the hope of preventing and/or reversing their neurological symptoms.
The most enjoyable aspect of working in the research laboratory setting is the feeling of working in a pioneering team that is driven by a common goal of making people’s lives better. The most enthusiastic times are those ‘eureka’ moments that take us a step further toward developing a new treatment for individuals living with MS.
Updated: 03 February, 2020