Meet The Researcher

Dr Heidi Beadnall

The University of Sydney, NSW

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself
In a previous life I was a competitive swimmer and for many years (almost a decade) had the same swimming coach as Kyle Chalmers. It is safe to say that it is far to late for a comeback... 😁
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
I was initially drawn to MS and neuroimmunology during my neurology training. At the time (a while ago now.....) I felt that the growing availability of disease modifying therapies provided people with MS, and those treating them, with a great deal of hope and a reason to be optimistic about the future. As such, I was keen to work in this field in particular. I also suspect that I had a subconscious interest in MS due to the fact that a close family member had MS. I became interested in MS research when I was a MS and Neuroimmunology Fellow at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. My supervisors and mentors at the time, and to date, inspired me to pursue research into MS and I am pleased I did.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
I think there have been so many exciting developments in MS research that it is difficult to be restricted to just one! The development and study of remyelinating therapies is very exciting at the moment as there is potential for these therapies to be of benefit in all MS subtypes. The huge expansion of imaging technology and research in MS in recent years has also been very exciting in my opinion.
Tell us about your current research project
The project will explore whether brain lesion numbers and volumes, and brain volume measurements can be efficiently and effectively calculated from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans, performed as part of routine MS clinical practice, using specialised automated imaging analysis techniques. The ease of access to this information by treating neurologists will be assessed also. Importantly, how useful the brain lesion and volume measurements are in a MS clinical practice setting will be analysed. More specifically how useful the information is and how it influences clinical decision making by neurologists will be examined. Finally the investigation of which MS characteristics are associated with management and treatment being more influenced by the brain lesion and brain volume measurement information provided will be explored.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
This research is important and innovative in that it will allow quantitative MRI brain metrics to be available in real-time in real-world MS clinical practice. The influence of this data on MS clinical decision-making in different scenarios will be examined and this is important because it will assist in identifying ways that MS can be better treated and managed, and further MS disease deterioration can be prevented. This is because through the use of the quantitative brain MRI metrics, disease activity and progression may be identified at an earlier time, allowing for earlier management optimisation.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
Not applicable - I predominantly do clinical and imaging research in MS.
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Heidi Beadnall