Meet the researcher devoting her career to stopping myelin damage
How did you get involved in MS research?
I’ve always been interested in the brain and how it can change. Growing up in Canada, a place where MS is very common, I was aware of the impact it has on people’s lives. I wanted to help. So I chose to focus my PhD on understanding more about how myelin can be repaired in MS. I’ve carried this forward to my own lab.
What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?
Every day is different, stimulating and challenging! My work involves guiding my team to design experiments and analyse results. I meet with fellow researchers to discuss ideas, and read published studies to learn about new research.
It’s important to share our work with the public and other researchers, so I often get out of the lab to attend talks and present our work at conferences.
What exciting MS research projects are you working on at the moment?
My lab is interested in finding out more about how we can repair myelin. Our bodies have an amazing natural capacity to repair myelin, but we know that as MS progresses, the repair process becomes less efficient and damage builds up. In order to stop MS, we need to be able to repair this damaged myelin.
A few years ago we found that a protein called activin-A plays a role in myelin repair. Since then we have focussed on finding out more about how it interacts with other brain molecules. Now, we’d like to test whether existing drugs can target activin-A to improve myelin repair. We hope that any drugs we find could be used as treatments for MS in the future.
I’m also supervising a really talented PhD student. She’s investigating proteins that are released by immune cells in the brain called microglia. We’ve seen that these proteins can also support myelin repair, which is really exciting.
What does being a PhD supervisor involve?
It’s my job to guide my students to carry out a research project, while helping them become independent and skilled scientists. The most rewarding part of being a PhD supervisor is seeing my students develop into confident, capable researchers.
Many breakthroughs in MS research and treatment come from young researchers. My goal is that by the end of a PhD, the student has contributed to our understanding of MS, is motivated by research, and has the skills and confidence to pursue a successful career.