Meet The Researcher

Dr Jennifer Massey

St Vincent's Hospital, NSW

Let's get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
This is probably more embarrassing than interesting! I used to have a fairly diverse Spotify ‘most played’ list. Unfortunately with two young kids, 9 of my top 10 tracks from 2022 were derived from the Frozen 1 and 2 soundtrack. Although that is an improvement on 2021 which was dominated by the Wiggles and Play School.
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
Neuroimmunology is a fascinating field. Its an exciting time to be working in MS with increasing understanding of the disease and available therapeutics. I believe being involved in translational research makes me a better clinician.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
We have highly effective therapies for relapsing MS, but still lack effective symptomatic therapies for many of the issues affecting people living with MS. However, inroads in to our understanding of progressive disease should help to turn this around in the future.
Tell us about your current research project...
This work will explore the ‘hot topic’ of EBV in MS through the model of Autologous Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (AHSCT).

Deep phenotyping of immune profiles of MS patients undergoing different immune therapies – of greatest interest AHSCT. This is a drastic treatment, but it offers us the potential to gain significant insights into the disease itself.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
We understand that AHSCT creates a dynamic environment that favours early EBV viral re-emergence before immune reconstitution has occurred. This scenario allows us to parse the role of EBV infection and anti-EBV immunity and its impact on MS relapse by tracking EBV viremia in relation to memory B cell reconstitution and clinical condition.

By understanding how different therapies modulate a patient’s immune system, and correlating this with clinical outcomes, we may be able to develop targeted cellular therapies in the future. My particular interest is in trying to see what the immune responses following treatment tell us about the antigenic drivers of disease.
Being in the lab is a little bit like a sanctuary from the hubbub of usual life. It’s quiet and methodical, although it can be infuriating when things don’t go to plan and I’m not inherently patient! Being a clinician with on-call requirements it can be a challenge to balance research and clinical practice, but I think that’s what adds to the enjoyment.
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Jennifer Massey