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Summer School on Genetics in MS

Young MS researcher, Ms Katherine Sanders has got off to a flying start after receiving an MS Research Australia postgraduate scholarship supported by the Trish MS Research Foundation earlier this year.

Working under the supervision of Associate Professor Lotti Tajouri at Bond University and collaborating with Associate Professor Jeannette Lechner-Scott at the Hunter Medical Research Institute in NSW, MS Sanders is investigating the role of microRNAs in the immune system in MS. MicroRNAs are molecules involved in controlling genetic activity in different cell types and may reveal clues about the biology of MS as well as potentially providing markers to track disease activity and progression.

Ms Sanders was selected from a highly competitive field to attend a Summer School on Genetics in MS run by the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ECTRIMS). She was awarded an ECTRIMS international travel grant and a Bond University travel award to support her attendance at the Summer School which was held in Tallinn, Estonia.

Ms Sanders reports that it was a whirlwind couple of days.

‘I had the opportunity to hear from the world’s leading MS researchers about their progress in understanding the role of genetics in MS, and to discuss with them the future directions of projects in this field. Getting to know my peers and their research interests was a highlight of the course.’

‘I gave a poster presentation of a pilot project I recently conducted on a DNA insert found in the progesterone receptor gene. We hypothesized that this insert may be associated with women who relapse during pregnancy, though we were unable to come to a clear conclusion due to small sample size. I received great feedback from the course participants on how this avenue of investigation may be further explored.’

Ms Sanders has also been awarded an educational grant by the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ACTRIMS) to attend the joint ECTRIMS/ACTRIMS conference in Boston, USA, in September 2014. She will present another poster on her work on microRNAs at this conference.

These international experiences are vitally important for young Australian researchers and allow them to develop contacts and collaborations with overseas researchers to develop their careers and extend their research.

In winning these additional travelling scholarships, Ms Sanders has really confirmed the high potential that led to her selection for an MS Research Australia Scholarship and we look forward seeing further exciting progress from her over the next few years.

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Summer School on Genetics in MS