Meet The Researcher

Dr Stephanie Trend

Telethon Kids Institute

About
Let's get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I grew up in a musical family, so karaoke is very competitive in our household!
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
I have always been interested in science and the world around us. During my university studies I became fascinated by the human immune system and the differences between immune responses in healthy people and those with different health issues. After I completed my PhD an opportunity arose to become involved in MS research as part of Professor Prue Hart’s team at the Telethon Kids Institute. That was 3 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. Meeting with the study participants who take part in our research has been invaluable in helping me to understand the impact of MS on people’s lives. It is highly rewarding to be involved in research that aims to better understand MS so that it might be more easily treated or prevented in the future.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
The development of therapies that deplete immune cells (such as ocrelizumab) has benefitted patients greatly and has provided important insights for researchers trying to understand the contributions of those immune cells to MS.
Tell us about your current research project...
Antibodies are small proteins that are made by some immune cells that allow the immune system to identify and respond to substances detected in the body. Antibodies are found in the brain and spinal fluid of people with MS, however it isn’t clear what effects they might be having in those locations. We are investigating whether the immune cells from people with MS or clinically isolated syndrome (pre-MS) respond differently to antibodies compared with cells from healthy people, and are measuring the amounts of proteins on the immune cells that bind to antibodies and initiate immune responses to them.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
This research will help us to better understand what causes inflammation in MS - a key driver of the condition - and whether responses to antibodies are involved. Since we are testing samples from people with pre-MS and MS, we will also gain better understanding of how immune responses might change as the disease progresses and whether the same treatments are appropriate for both groups of people.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
There is nothing more exciting that analysing your latest data and realising you are the first person in the world to know something new. Ensuring new research projects have adequate funding is probably the biggest challenge for all scientists.
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Dr Stephanie Trend