2018 McDonald Fellowship recipients

Majid Pahlevan Kakhi, Iran

Mallahalli Manu, India

The McDonald Fellowships enable young researchers from emerging countries to work in a research institution outside their own country, with a view to returning to their country to establish a programme of MS research that involves the application of the newly learned techniques.

Majid Pahlevan Kakhki from Iran has been awarded the ECTRIMS-MSIF McDonald fellowship. Majid will be joining Associate Professor Maja Jagodic at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Majid has a keen interest in epigenetics, the field of studying how gene expression (rather than the underlying DNA) causes certain characteristics in an organism. Majid will use this epigenetics approach to understand the mechanisms underpinning disease progression in multiple sclerosis. We are grateful for the financial support from the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) to be able to award this fellowship.

Mallahalli Manu from India has been awarded the ARSEP-MSIF McDonald fellowship. The title of Mallahalli’s project is “the role of exosomes in propagation of gut microbiota signals in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis”. Similar to how bike messengers carry parcels across a busy city, exosomes are small vesicles which carry chemical signals/molecules throughout the body. Mallahalli seeks to understand how messengers from the gut communicate with the immune system in people with MS, and how this affects the disease mechanism of MS. Mallahalli will do his fellowship in Tokyo, Japan with Professor Takashi Yamamura at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry (NCNP). This fellowship has been made available through the financial support of Fondation d’Aide pour la Recherche sur la Sclerose en Plaques (ARSEP).

2018 Du Pré grant recipients

Dr Heck is working on understanding the role of EBV in MS with Prof Francisco Quintana at Harvard Medical School, USA.

The Du Pré Grants enable MS researchers from emerging countries to make short visits to established MS research centres outside their own country, either to learn from each other, foster collaborations, or to carry out parts of joint research projects.

Anibal Chertcoff from Argentina will be spending six months at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, with Professor Helen Tremlett, studying psychiatric morbidity in MS during the ‘prodromal’ period, i.e. before any physical symptoms have appeared. Understanding this process could have implications for diagnosing and treating the disease earlier. We are grateful to the Dutch organisation Stichting MS Research, who made this award possible.

Maryam Ghasemi-Kasman from Iran will be undertaking a six-month project at the University of Alberta, Canada, with Associate Professor Dr. Fabrizio Giuliani. She will use genetic techniques to reprogram fibroblasts in order to investigate their effect on myelin repair in an experimental model of multiple sclerosis. Fibroblasts are cells that form a large portion of the body’s connective tissue, and in the lab, they can be reprogrammed to become other cell types, such as nerve cells.

Evelyn Heck from Argentina was awarded the Du Pré grant to spend six months at Harvard Medical School, US, in the lab of Associate Professor Francisco Quintana, on a project studying the relationship between the Epstein-Barr virus and MS. There is no single cause of MS, and instead the risk of developing MS may be related to a range of environmental and genetic factors. One of these factors is the exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus. With this Du Pré grant, Evelyn will study the molecular mechanism of how the virus might cause MS to develop. We are grateful to the Dutch organisation Stichting MS Research, who made this award possible.

Hajer Derbali from Tunisia will spend six months at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) Pellegrin in Bordeaux, France, with Professor Bruno Brochet, to study the cognitive challenges experienced by French and Tunisian patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis in their everyday lives. Individuals with MS often experience non-physical symptoms, such as difficulties concentrating or making decisions, as well as problems remembering – sometimes described as a ‘brain fog’.

Nasrin Jangjoo from Iran will join Professor Wolfram Tetzlaff and his team at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries at the University of British Columbia (ICORD-UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. Her project title is “the role of p-tau in demyelination induced axonopathy”. In brief, demyelination is what occurs when the protective sheath (myelin) is stripped from the nerves. This is one of the defining features of multiple sclerosis. When the myelin is damaged, brain cells communicate more slowly with each other, which can damage brain function and control of muscles. This disruption of the normal function of nerves is called axonopathy, i.e. it is a disease (pathology) of the axons or nerves. Nasrin’s project will look at one of the molecular mechanisms believed to be responsible for demyelination.