Meet The Researcher


Dr Jacqueline Orian

La Trobe University

Let’s get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself...
I have always wanted to be a neuroscientist. I began to think about it when I was in primary school, but received little encouragement except from one individual. It was my grandfather and he firmly believed that the pursuit of knowledge was for everyone. He made no distinction between his grandsons and granddaughters when it came to the right to education. If I’m here today it’s, to a large extent, thanks to him.
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
It was while I was in the third year of my B.Sc. degree that I met, for the first time, a young person affected with MS. She was a good friend and suddenly developed severe symptoms and struggled to complete the year. While the rest of us were planning our future and dreaming of bigger and better things, she was going nowhere at the age of 20. It wasn’t a hard decision to make as to which area of neuroscience to choose.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
From my perspective the vast improvements made in the understanding of the pathological processes underlying MS over the last 20 years have been among the most important game-changing developments in the field. This new vision has generated a better understanding of the disease evolution and the basis of progression. I have no doubt that the new focus on progression will lead to improved therapeutics aimed at early intervention.
Tell us about your current research project...
I had the good fortune to meet Prof Karlheinz Peter, a cardiologist at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Institute, at a scientific meeting on imaging techniques. It was then that we decided to investigate the role of platelets in neuroinflammation using a combination of a platelet-targeting drug he had developed and my MS animal models. After a few hiccups, we generated data that proved platelet targeting to be highly potent in blocking disease progression. Our current project aims to demonstrate that platelet targeting from early disease stage prevents neurodegeneration and entry into the progressive disease stage.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
The focus of the project is on mechanisms causing early tissue destruction. In this way it differs from approaches in other laboratories which aim to understand and target later events. Additionally, the new animal model generated as part of the research will allow measurements of spontaneous repair and the evaluation of adjunct therapies promoting repair. We believe that this research will lead to improved patient monitoring and new strategies for neuroprotection.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
The most exciting part of being a scientist is the feeling that every day, one is participating in the creation of new knowledge. This is closely followed by the joys of being part of a team sharing a common purpose. The challenge is to find the time to devote enough attention to all aspects of the work: training junior scientists, reading, writing manuscripts, giving lectures and (sadly) administrative duties as well…Sometimes I feel like a juggler about to lose all my clubs.
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Dr Jacqueline Orian