Meet The Researcher

Dr Marzena Fabis-Pedrini

Murdoch University, WA

Let’s get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself...
I was born in Poland and my scientific research started in Poznan where I completed my MSc and later my PhD. This research has given me opportunity to continue my career in the USA (Philadelphia) and now in Australia (Perth).
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
I was first introduced to MS research in the USA where I was involved in a study of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of MS. As part of this I was involved in important studies of blood-brain barrier to better understand how immune cells are crossing this barrier, getting into the brain and attacking neurons. The EAE research made me very interested in MS and once having the opportunity to switch from the bench to the bedside of clinical MS research in Australia, I couldn’t wait to be a part of the clinical research team.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
I am passionate about improving quality of life (QoL) in people with MS. The most exciting development in MS research is undoubtedly development of effective therapies. Now there are many disease-modifying therapies that are allowing people with MS to have a better QoL.
Tell us about your current research project...
Physical activity and exercise is important and provides many benefits to people with MS, and we are introducing GotRhythm as a new music technology tool to motivate people with MS towards walking for physical activity. GotRhythm harnesses technology to monitor walking patterns, provide personalised feedback to encourage consistent walking patterns and will aim to motivate users to increase their participation in walking for physical activity and exercise. GotRhythm has the ability to notice when a persons walking pattern is no longer aligned to the beat of the music, and provide feedback to help them to return to the preferred walking pattern. GotRhythm can be used as a walking measurement and rehabilitation tool to improve the walking patterns of people with MS. Our randomised controlled exercise trial will meet the aerobic exercise guidelines for people with MS, and is designed to encourage ongoing exercise participation after the end of the programme.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
MS is a heterogeneous disease with a range of symptoms; these can include physical and cognitive disabilities. Many individuals with MS have low levels of physical activity. This is of high importance because the limited physical activity may lead to a decrease in fitness, the ability to move freely, and generally lower QoL. Walking problems are one of the most common symptoms, and it is important to establish ways to maintain walking among persons with MS. Walking to music is a strong rehabilitation tool, and has been shown to improve walking-related measurements. Walking to music also has the potential to increase ones motivation towards walking for exercise. This research should provide information not only on the use of walking to music technology as a motivational tool in MS but also as a rehabilitation tool to monitor walking in MS and provide feedback to improve walking. Additionally, the project will lay the foundation for walking to music technology for physical activity interventions and exercise program using GotRhythm. We are excited to bring music for walking rehabilitation to the MS community.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
I love working in a multidisciplinary team with scientists, clinicians, nurses and health professionals discussing new ideas, and translating the research from the bench to the clinics. Like other scientists I enjoy contributing to new discoveries and finding breakthroughs, which can be implemented in the clinics helping to improve QoL in people with MS. I am always very enthusiastic about my research and I am confident that I can make important contributions to MS research. The funding is challenging and we are always grateful to MS Research Australia for funding our projects.
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Marzena Fabis-Pedrini