Meet The Researcher

Dr Jessica Fletcher

Dr Jessica Fletcher

The University of Melbourne

Let's get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself...
Growing up, I lived in 5 of Australia's 8 states and territories and started my research career studying parasites in sheep.
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
I know a number of people living with brain diseases including MS, and understand the day to day challenges that can exist when living with a neurological condition, for both patients and their families. By doing research in this area, this is a small way to improve their future in the long-term. Also, oligodendrocytes (the myelin producing cells) are fascinating and very, very cool.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
The most exciting development has been the emergence of multiple disease modifying treatments for MS and the increasing recognition that MS has a broad range of ways it presents. I think this will really change the way MS is managed.
Tell us about your current research project...
Worsening symptoms in MS are associated with a failure in the brain and spinal cord's natural ability to repair itself. Most new treatments are tested in scientific models where this self-repair ability is intact. In our project we will develop a model that is more like MS, and test whether our new treatment can still promote repair.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
Our research is important in developing new treatments which can repair the damage to myelin (the outer covering of nerves) and stop MS disease progression. It should also provide new information into what happens to the cells (oligodendrocytes) that make myelin when they are repeatedly damaged, as they are in MS. This will improve our ability to develop better and more effective ways to promote myelin repair and prevent MS from worsening.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
Working in the lab you get to see life on a microscopic scale that very few people get to witness and have the privilege of discovery. There's always a sense of possibility. Many of the challenges in the lab are when things don't work out quite as expected, but often that's a good thing!

Current Research Project

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Dr Jessica Fletcher