Bond University teaching fellow, Katherine Sanders has received a $96,000 grant from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Research Australia and the Trish MS Research Foundation, to fund three years of PhD research into the biomedical causes of the neuro-degenerative disease.
“It was a really pleasant surprise to have been awarded this scholarship,” said Ms Sanders.
“MS Research Australia fund incredible projects on all aspects of MS biology and I am excited to start contributing to this pool of knowledge.”
Earlier this year, the Bond MS group submitted an application for Katherine to attend the inaugural PhD course in Melbourne hosted by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory Australia. The two week intensive course led by renowned international researchers, highlighted the latest molecular biology techniques across all life science fields and inspired Katherine’s MS PhD project development.
According to MS Research Australia, an estimated 23,000 Australians have MS, with a further 1000 new diagnoses each year. Most people are diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age and MS is now the most common disease of the central nervous system in young adults.
While the exact cause of MS is unknown, the symptoms are caused by lesions (‘sclerosis’) in the brain and spinal cord where the protective layer of myelin has been damaged or stripped away from the nerve fibres.
Working under the supervision of Associate Professor Lotti Tajouri from Bond’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine and Associate Professor Jeannette Lechner-Scott and Professor Rodney Scott at the Hunter Medical Research Institute in NSW, Katherine will examine brain lesions in tissue from deceased MS patients to investigate their potential use as biomarkers in the circulation of bodily fluids.
Specifically, she will focus on the tiny molecules known as microRNAs that help to regulate how genes are expressed in our cells. In diseases such as MS, microRNAs can switch the wrong genes on or off, potentially affecting susceptibility to MS or the course of the disease.
Through her research, Katherine hopes to identify abnormal microRNA expression and analyse their effect on cellular behaviour, which may ultimately provide a foundation for the development of new, targeted treatment strategies.
Katherine’s grant is one of 11 new funding awards distributed by MS Research Australia to researchers around the country as part of a $1.537 million package of new MS-focussed funding for 2014.
“We were very pleased with the quality of applications to our 2014 funding round and have high hopes for these new research ventures”, said MS Research Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Matthew Miles.
“MS Research Australia is proud to be one of the major contributors to the funding of outstanding MS research in this country.”