I graduated from the University of Melbourne Medical School the top of my class in 2011. I then went on to work at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Austin Hospital as a junior doctor, before entering neurology specialty training.
I undertook my final year of advanced training at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London, where I am currently completing an additional year as a clinical fellow working in multiple sclerosis. I am planning to return to Australia in 2020 to commence a PhD in this field.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease resulting from damage to the fatty insulation around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called ‘myelin’. It occurs when the body’s own immune system, which normally fights infections, attacks myelin. It can be activated to do so after exposure to certain biochemical signals.
MS usually begins with a relapsing-remitting phase (RRMS), with flare-ups followed by recovery. However, most patients eventually develop secondary progressive MS (SPMS), with steady worsening of symptoms without recovery. A minority have primary progressive MS (PPMS) with gradual decline from onset.
Whilst many treatments are now available for RRMS, there are few effective therapies for progressive MS to prevent steady worsening of disability. This may be because there are different biological processes in progressive MS. Current therapies generally target cells in the activated immune system that directly attack nerve cells. However, a potentially more potent approach is to dampen down the initial stimulation of the immune system. This could be done by giving the immune system an inhibitory rather than activating signal.
Existing work from my proposed laboratory has identified some of these signals, which also play a part in the production of myelin. Furthermore, a gene involved in regulating the immune response, found in 40% of Caucasian MS patients, increases the likelihood of developing progressive MS to varying degrees depending on levels of the above mentioned signals.
The aim of this project is to study ways to dampen down the abnormal immune activation, which may lead to new treatments.
Supervisors: Professor Trevor Kilpatrick