My name is Frances. I’m 24 years old and I recently started my PhD at Queen’s University Belfast.
After taking biology classes at university, I found I enjoyed working in a lab and loved the idea of helping people through medical research.
Initially I thought I would work on conditions that were close to my family, such as cancer or Parkinson’s. It wasn’t until I was 19 that MS and I became close.
After experiencing numbness in my back and neck I was referred to a neurologist. Numerous MRI scans, blood and other tests revealed that I had MS.
Apart from briefly educating myself about the condition, I didn’t dwell too much on my MS at first. That was until I experienced highly aggressive optic neuritis aged 20.
I decided to make something positive out of my experience and I started to volunteer for the MS Society’s very own Research Network.
The Research Network
As a trained member of the Research Network I helped to review research project proposals and shape the Research Network for almost two years.
Reviewing grants gave me an insight into what researchers go through to get funding for their work. It also gave me a snapshot of the huge spectrum of MS research across the UK.
My own research
Naturally, after all these experiences I was very drawn to MS research. For two years, I gained valuable training in regenerative medicine for MS with Prof. Charles ffrench-Constant and Dr Veronique Miron. I’ve now started my PhD in Dr. Denise Fitzgerald’s lab and I love it. We’re interested in harnessing the immune system to repair myelin damage in MS.
The lab has identified a type of immune cell, called a T cell, that can help with this regenerative process. I will investigate the effect these T cells are having on the myelin-making cells. By studying these cells more closely, I hope to identify some exciting new drug targets.
I know some of the challenges that people with MS face every day. But I also know that everyone’s MS is different and I won’t experience all the symptoms in my lifetime.
I hope that in the near future we will have access to treatments that can repair myelin, and ultimately, cure MS.