Meet The Researcher

Associate Professor Kaylene Young

Menzies Institute for Medical Research

Let’s get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself...
My research career has seen me live and work in Melbourne, Brisbane, London, and now Hobart.
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
When I started out in research, new cells being born in the mature brain was a relatively new concept, and one that absolutely fascinated me. It came with the possibility that stem cells within the brain could be activated to replace cells lost due to injury or disease. After discovering that a particular type of stem cell (the OPC) had the ability to make new oligodendrocytes, the cells lost due to MS, it became obvious to me that my research could be applied to develop new and much needed therapies for this disease.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
The development of immunomodulatory therapies to reduce relapse rates has been a major advance, but for me, it would have to be the discovery that OPCs exist in our brains, and can make the exact cell type we need to replace to repair the damage caused by MS.
Tell us about your current research project...
My research program has been guided by MS consumer priorities and informed by our local MS consumer and community reference committee – and over the next 5 years I hope to accomplish 3 key things: 1. Our phase I trial of magnetic brain stimulation in people with MS showed that it was safe - I can now carry out the phase II trial to find out how well it promotes myelin repair in people with MS. So clinical sites in Hobart, Launceston, Perth, Newcastle and Melbourne will be inviting people with MS to participate. 2. My team will carry out laboratory-based research to learn how genes affect cells to cause MS. 3. We will gain new knowledge about the earliest changes that brain circuits undergo following myelin loss. We think this new knowledge will be essential for achieving brain repair and combating disease progression.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
I am excited to lead an MS research program that spans fundamental, preclinical and laboratory research streams. It means that my team can work to better understand the cause and consequences of MS, as well as the cell types that can be most effectively targeted to drive brain repair – but we have a pathway to move that into the clinic, to find out if it can be used to improve the lives of people with MS. This research program engages enthusiastic staff, students, consumers and collaborators and we work together to ensure the knowledge that comes from the research can be put to good use.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
I enjoy laboratory research. The experiments we carry out are often quite detailed and can run over multiple months. Overcoming the technical challenges to allow an experiment to go ahead can be incredibly frustrating and not knowing until the very end whether an experiment has worked can be stressful. But that is just part of the process. When a student comes to my office and is hopping up and down wanting to show me something they have seen down the microscope, or a team member comes in wanting to share their latest data, I feel a bit of a rush. Those shared successes are my favourite thing about laboratory research.
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Associate Professor Kaylene Young