Meet The Researcher

Ms Alice Saul

Ms Alice Saul

University of Tasmania

Let’s get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself...
On the weekends you can often find me out on the paddle board with my border collie, Oliver. Oliver is a very keen paddleboarder and has his very own shark fin lifejacket!
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
I was inspired to get involved in MS research as I have experienced firsthand the impact that MS can have on individuals and their families. I understand the challenges that MS presents, and I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of others by tackling these problems.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
I think every development in MS medical research is exciting. Every clue helps to improve our understanding of MS leading to better treatments and quality of life of those affected by MS. One of my personal favourites was research by Dr Franciso Quintana’s team (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School) that identified a link between diet, gut and the immune system in laboratory models of MS as it is particularly relevant to my project. I also find it exciting that lifestyle interventions are beginning to play a key role in modern day treatments of MS alongside pharmacological agents.
Tell us about your current research project...
Many people with MS modify their diet or use MS-specific diets, but there is a low evidence base that different aspects of dietary intake have an effect on disease activity, progression and MS-specific symptoms. I will reduce this knowledge gap by examining diet in MS using the AusLong study – an internationally unique cohort of people who were recruited to the study soon after they had initial symptoms suggesting they would develop MS, and who were then followed annually for 10 years. I will examine whether indices of diet quality and inflammation are associated with relapses, disability progression, MRI brain imaging measures, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of others and have experienced firsthand the impact MS can have on individuals and their families. As an MS focus group facilitator, I spent valuable time in the MS community. An important insight I gained was how important it was for people with MS to be able to stay well and take control of their disease. This project is designed to close the knowledge gap and provide translatable outcomes for the MS community to implement at home, making a difference for those living with MS. Undertaking this research will make a significant contribution to those living with MS by providing dietary advice to MS patients that can enhance their quality of life. Beyond this, these results will help to design diets that, after testing in a randomised controlled trial setting, may be used by people with MS to improve their disease course.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
My role requires a lot of problem-solving, which I find immensely satisfying. Often we have only a handful of clues to figure out a research question, so finding the solutions to the puzzle that is MS is a tremendous feat. I enjoy learning new skills in order to do this and love teaming up with researchers all over the world. I also find it very rewarding that these discoveries can make a difference in peoples lives. Research can be time consuming, patience is often vital, and it is highly competitive. We are often in competition with researchers all over the world. Challenges like these make the thrill of discovery even sweeter!

Current Research Project

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Ms Alice Saul