Since the launch of the McDonald fellowships in 2007, we have awarded more than 30 fellowships to researchers from emerging countries such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Hungary, India, Iran, Jordan, Mexico, Moldova, Romania, Turkey and Thailand, to spend 2 years training in a centre of excellence in MS research before taking their learnings back to their home country.
Below are some of our recent McDonald Fellowship recipients:
Arman, 26, has been working at the MS Research Center in Tehran, Iran, since 2007. In 2011 we awarded Arman a Du Pré grant, which allowed him to start working with the Queen Square MS group. His fellowship will allow him to spend time as a PhD student at University College London, under the mentorship of Dr Olga Cicarelli. Arman has recently authored a paper for NeuroImage:Clinical, summarised here:
Computers can diagnose multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica with large amounts of data coming from multiple sources
It is not uncommon for people with a similar disorder to MS, known as neuromyelitis optica, to be misdiagnosed as MS. These two disorders respond differently to treatments and have different prognoses. Usually blood samples of patients are used to detect an antibody that is present in majority of patients with NMO, and to distinguish them from multiple sclerosis.
While large amounts of data may not be easily handled by humans, recent advances in computer science allow researchers to integrate data from different sources and perform a diagnosis of patients. For example, data coming from routine MRI evaluations of patients along with advanced MRI modalities, such as functional MRI, can now be integrated with data acquired from cognitive and clinical tests, and be fed into a computer algorithm. Researchers have shown that such a computational model can have a high accuracy (up to 88%) to automatically distinguish multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica. Moreover, they have shown that these algorithms are also capable to distinguish between more than two groups, and discriminate between patients with neuromyelitis optica, multiple sclerosis and healthy volunteers. In future, such automatic algorithms may be used to support clinical diagnosis made by human experts, especially in difficult cases. For now, however, these methods are not feasible outside of research laboratories, and may just impose extra unnecessary costs.
Funded by the USA’s National MS Society
Having graduated from the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh, Jakir, 26, is now studying for his research Master’s degree at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. He is currently working on a research project, ‘Molecular analysis of the axon initial segment in a demyelination mouse model of MS’, under the supervision of Dr Marc Dayenne. His McDonald Fellowship will take him to the University of Nottingham in the UK, working with Dr Bruno Gran on a project called ‘How do infections activate inflammation in MS? Role of toll-like receptor 2.’
Kiandokht, 28, recently graduated from the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran, a country where the incidence of MS seems to be increasing. Her work on pregnancy and MS was presented at the American Academy of Neurology Congress and then published in European Neurology. Thanks to a McDonald Fellowship, Kiandokht will be working with Dr Tanuja Chitnis at Harvard University in the USA, studying adipokine effects on inflammatory cell gene expression in pediatric MS patients. She says: “I strongly believe that transferring the knowledge and research expertise to my country would be an important step in fighting MS in Iran.”
Funded by the USA’s National MS Society
Miklos, 27, graduated in 2012 and then worked as a research fellow at the University of Szeged in Hungary. He currently holds a fellowship at Harvard Medical School, where he is studying neuroimaging of MS and neuromyelitis optica. The McDonald Fellowship will enable him to continue this research, working with Dr Charles Guttman, looking at the role of different parts of the brain in fatigue. He plans to take his experiences and skills in advanced imaging techniques back to Hungary, to train others and continue working in research.
He says: “As a prospective teacher of academic medicine, I will be enabled to teach my Hungarian colleagues how to use and implement the most advanced neuroimaging methods into their research.
Aysegul, a postdoctoral researcher from Turkey, is spending two years in Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris with Professor Catherine Lubetzki, investigating the role of the Axon Initial Segment (AIS) in MS.
Amir, a postgraduate research assistant from Tehran, is spending two years at San Raffaele Hospital, Milan under the supervision of Professor Gianvito Martino, investigating ‘In vivo reprogramming of somatic cells into oligodendrocytes as a way to promote tissue repair in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis’.
Runzhe, a postdoctoral researcher from China, will travel to work in Monash University, Australia, with Prof Claude Bernard for two years investigating the use of Human induced pluripotent stem cell derived neural progenitor cells as an MS therapy.