Veroinque working in the lab with a pipette

Myelin repair research goes virtual

This year, many MS researchers have found themselves working from home. But that doesn’t mean they’re working alone. The world’s two biggest MS research conferences have joined forces to go virtual, giving researchers like Dr Veronique Miron from the University of Edinburgh the vital opportunity to share their results and collaborate.

Hi Veronique! What are you looking forward to the most about MS Virtual 2020?

"Having managed the lab's activity and research from home for the past 6 months, I'm very excited to be able to share our new developments with so many MS researchers from around the world!

I'm also really looking forward to catching up on the latest myelin repair research, like potential new drug targets for myelin repair. I'm also particularly interested in hearing the results of the bexarotene clinical trial which stems from work carried out by my colleagues in Edinburgh and Cambridge."

How do you feel about research conferences going online?

"Virtual conferences can be a really positive thing, because they mean that researchers aren't limited by personal or financial circumstances and are more able to balance attending the conference with their other responsibilities.

Of course, everything being virtual means that we could miss out on the in-person interactions that can sometimes lead to new collaborations. So putting in the effort to communicate with other researchers is really important. I hope that ultimately the virtual format means I can connect with even more researchers than would normally be possible!"

Could you give us a sneak peek of the new research that you'll be presenting?

"I'm presenting work done by Irene Molina-Gonzalez, who is a PhD student in my lab funded by the MS Society.

Irene found that astrocytes activate a protein called Nrf2 after myelin damage. But in order for myelin repair to happen, the astrocytes need to shut down this activation. When this doesn't happen, myelin repair is very poor.

This is important because some drugs that activate Nrf2 are currently being tested for their ability to protect nerves from damage in MS. Our new works shows that these treatments might inadvertently impair myelin repair, indicating that it could be helpful to give people a combination of drugs that target both Nrf2 activation and myelin repair."

It's been a difficult year. But what was the last thing that made you really smile?

This week we submitted a paper on Irene's findings to a research journal. This made me smile not only because it's a culmination of almost 4 years of work, but also because I'm so proud of Irene for persevering with writing the paper during lockdown and performing critical final experiments when we were allowed back into the lab.

The pandemic has created a difficult situation for everyone, and I'm so pleased that Irene's dedication to this research has led to such a positive outcome in this challenging time.

Find out more about the latest research being presented this weekend at MS Virtual 2020