Meet the researcher determined to stop progressive MS
A personal journey into MS research
When I was two years old, my father was diagnosed with secondary progressive MS. As I grew older, his MS progressed quickly. But I was always inspired by his belief that something would come along to stop MS and by his determination to help that happen.
He took part in every trial he was eligible for and volunteered at the local MS Society group. Now my own child is two years old, I want to be a role model for her too.
My personal experience with MS motivated me to go to medical school to learn more about it. I spent some time researching myelin damage in rats. Then, after graduating as a doctor, I did a project looking at hormone levels in Huntingtons’ disease. Learning about clinical research inspired me to do a PhD focused on invisible symptoms in secondary progressive MS.
At the moment, I’m investigating how cognitive symptoms (like memory and attention difficulties) change as MS progresses. I want to find out what these changes look like on MRI scans.
We know that people with secondary progressive MS can experience different cognitive symptoms than people with other types of MS. But we need a better understanding of what's actually happening in the brain so we can develop treatments.
Incredible progress with MS treatments
I feel very lucky that I'm working as a trainee neurologist at a time when we have so many really effective treatments for MS. I can offer my patients and their families real hope for the future, which wasn’t the case when I was growing up.
Just 10 years ago it seemed impossible that we would get so far so quickly. But the licensing of ocrelizumab last year means I can finally say we have a treatment for at least some people with progressive MS.
This really is a key landmark and should be celebrated!
The future of MS research
I think the most challenging thing is still not being able to predict how someone’s MS will progress, and of course not being able to stop it.
There are some exciting new tools being developed that will help us with this research. Like advanced MRI techniques that use artificial intelligence to create a unique image of the brain like a fingerprint.
Meaningful scientific progress also requires real diversity in the workforce. As my career has progressed I have become more aware of the differences your gender can still make in the academic world. I'm excited by movements like International Women in MS that help female scientists like me share their experiences and come up with solutions.