From a young age, I have been interested in the science behind my mother’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis. I knew that I wanted to be part of the medical community. After many years working in the hospital during my undergraduate career, as an emergency medical technician, as well as shadowing neurosurgeons and performing research during my master’s program, I chose the bench (research) over bedside (treating patients). At that time, a majority of therapies targeted symptoms, not the source, of MS, and there were no therapies available to treat progressive MS. So, I have researched neurodegeneration and repair in the brain; specifically myelin repair.
In July, I started as a National MS Society research fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the lab of Stephen D. Miller, PhD. In addition to my focus on myelin repair, as a neuroimmunologist, I have the opportunity to pursue selective immune suppression. Ideally, selective immune suppression will lead to decreased (or even absence of) relapses, and myelin repair will mean the ability to repair damage. As neurodegeneration underlies MS, effective disease-modifying therapies need to both regulate the immune system and promote restoration of neuronal function, including remyelination. Soon, I hope to be able to move from pre-clinical therapeutic trials into patient trials – and improve peoples’ quality of life in all stages of MS.
As an MS researcher, I can see that we are making breakthroughs each and every day to better understand causes, find new treatments and, ultimately, cure MS. The combination of MS research funded privately by the MS Society and publically by the National Institute of Health (NIH) is critical. NIH funding supports research projects and the training of students and post-doctoral fellows. When NIH budgets are decreased, fewer ongoing research projects and fewer scientists remain. Further, investment in medical research pays off two-fold: improved quality of life for patients and a decreased financial burden on individuals, families and the government for medical expenses.
My voice matters as an MS researcher, but the most important voice I have is that of someone affected by MS. Join me and activists from more than 300 causes and organizations in the Rally for Medical Research on September 17: urge Congress to increase funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest source of funding for medical research in the world, and the driving force behind the improved health of hundreds of thousands of people living with MS in America. Share your story to urge Congress to invest in medical research through the NIH.