Meet the Researcher

Dr Belinda Kaskow

University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, Perron Institute, WA

Dr Belinda Kaskow is a Postdoctoral scientist and lecturer at the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University and the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Sciences.

Her favourite part of working in the lab is dreaming up and designing the best experiment to answer the questions of interest, which requires much thought, innovation and patience.

About Dr Belinda Kaskow

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself
I abseiled down the 32-storey (132 m) Allendale Square building in Perth to raise money for the Perth Children's Hospital (formerly called PMH).
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
I am fascinated by the interplay of genetic and environmental risk factors for the development of MS and the role of the peripheral immune system in the disease. The immune system is so finely balanced and even when it is dysregulated like in MS, there are mechanisms trying to bring it back to homeostasis.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
The advancements in very effective disease modifying therapies for RRMS are incredibly exciting. I am looking forward to the next generation of treatments that are more targeted with less side effects and for research to make even more progress in treating and preventing disease progression.
Tell us about your current research project
The immune system is finely balanced to allow for strong immune responses against foreign antigens (e.g. viruses) but also control of those responses so that self-antigens do not trigger an immune response. In multiple sclerosis (MS) the immune system is dysregulated, leading to attacks on self-antigens in the brain and spinal cord. Killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) are found on certain immune cells and help control immune responses. However, the KIR family is highly complex and variable among individuals making it challenging to study using traditional methods. Recent advances in our understanding of the complexity of KIR and advances in new technologies and data analysis will allow us to investigate which KIR genes are present in an individual and when/where those genes are expressed.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
Understanding how Killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) impacts the balance of the immune system in MS will help us better understand which immune cells are inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. This will allow us to discover more targeted, effective therapies to treat MS and halt disease progression.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
My favourite part of working in the lab is dreaming up and designing the best experiment to answer the question we are interested in. It requires a lot of thought, innovation and patience. While challenges come in various forms, I am privileged to be part of an encouraging, enthusiastic and passionate team with the ultimate goal of bettering the lives of people living with MS.
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Belinda Kaskow