Meet The Researcher

Dr Yuan Zhou

Dr Yuan Zhou

Menzies Institute for Medical Research, TAS

Let’s get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself...
I love fishing as it requires patience. You never know what you will get and how long it will take. Good things come to those who wait!
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
MS has resulted in a great economic burden and has significant social, psychological and physical impacts on people living with MS as well as their families. What has inspired me is wanting to make a difference – the pursuit of the betterment for people living with MS. This has captivated my interest and motivated me to address the gap between basic genetics research and clinical practice, translating high-throughput research data to clinical use, which could lead to individualised early-disease counselling, and potentially earlier treatment.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
The world first MS genome-wide association study using multiple longitudinal cohorts found one novel locus (LRP2; most significant SNP rs12988804) that reached genome-wide significance in predicting relapse risk. LRP2 is expressed on the surface of many CNS cells, including neurons and oligodendrocytes, and is a critical receptor in axonal guidance. The finding of this locus that has extensive effects on neuronal development and repair is of interest as a potential modulator of MS disease course. This finding has been quickly replicated in an independent Belgian cohort making it the first validated MS severity locus ever identified.
Tell us about your current research project...
The aim of this research project is to explain why the prevalent of MS is much higher in females than males (with ratio > 3:1). The grant will support me to work at Harvard Medical School and Broad Institute to develop a novel pipeline to examine the genetic differences between female and male MS using largest MS genetic data to address the question.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
Early prediction of future disease progression and intervention could be vital for people living with MS, in that earlier and more appropriate treatments may significantly modify disease course and reduce disability accumulation. My research project will identify novel genetic loci and their functional roles in MS aetiology and progression by sex. The identification of novel genes will provide novel drug targets, and will provide guidance for patient-level disease counselling and treatment by sex.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
Being the first to identify the novel genes for MS risk is always the most enjoyable thing as a researcher. There are many challenges such as addressing the comments by the reviewer.

Current Research Project

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Yuan Zhou