Meet The Researcher

Fabienne

Associate Professor Fabienne Brilot-Turville

University of Sydney

About
Let's get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
My French accent does not come from France! It comes from Belgium where I was born and raised.
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
MS is at the frontier of neurology, neuroscience, and immunology. The pathogenesis is complex, and the commitment of the many scientists and researchers trying to solve this puzzle is inspiring. On the other side of the coin, although there have been novel therapies that have improved the treatment of MS patients, MS is still a disease that patients have to deal with their whole lives. It takes a lot of courage to overcome this, and MS patients have truly inspiring stories.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
In fundamental science, the involvement of reactive astrocytes in proinflammatory animal models of MS. Astrocytes have been thought as the glial cells supporting neurons and oligodendrocytes, generally thought as the CNS cells contributing to MS pathogenesis, and therefore their active role is an important discovery. In clinical science, the recent trial of the remyelinating Bexarotene was the first time such a compound was tested and I think it will pave the way for future trials, even without positive clinical trial results.
Tell us about your current research project...
Myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) antibodies are used in diagnostic to discriminate certain demyelinating disorders of the optic nerve, brain, and spinal cord from MS. Once diagnosed, MOG antibody-positive patients are treated differently than patients with MS; disease-modifying treatment for MS patients and immunosuppression for MOG antibody-positive patients, and early treatment improves clinical outcomes. However an unusual group of MS patients test positive for MOG antibody, and this project will find out whether they might be affected by a new group of MS patients, and whether their MOG antibodies are different.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
Because treatments are different, the recognition of these patients and their diagnosis is very important first step. The project involves many collaborator clinicians and I am quite excited to work with them to help their patients.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
I feel very lucky to work with talented students and I enjoy very much the collaboration with neurologists. I love to get a result that I feel is important and then putting all the data together in a story. We try to have a very translational approach which we believe will ultimately help patients with MS. Improving their diagnosis and treatment brings me lots of joy and pride. The downside is that fundamental science takes so long! Our current world loves nothing more than fast answers though and to weave one’s way through these conflicting timelines is challenging. Also scientists need a bunch of expensive toys to play with, and research funding is always needed…
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Associate Professor Fabienne Brilot-Turville