A promising start for a promising
Katherine Sanders is an up and coming young researcher who was awarded a
postgraduate scholarship, funded by the Trish MS Research Foundation, in 2014.
Ms Sanders is looking at molecular profiles of cells that control activity
levels of different genes. Ms Sanders is jointly supervised by Associate
Professor Lotti Tajouri from Bond University Queensland and Associate Professor
Jeannette Lechner-Scott and Professor Rodney Scott from the Hunter Medical Research
Institute in Newcastle.
project is concentrating specifically on microRNAs (miRNA) and their role in
MS. In recent years, miRNA has
been recognised as an important way that genes are regulated and controlled.
Our genes are encoded in DNA, but RNA is essentially a chemical copy of DNA
that acts as an intermediate step in the process of ‘reading’ the DNA code in
cells. Most RNA molecules contribute to the building of the proteins that form
the components in the cell’s machinery. However, miRNAs are small fragments of
RNA that play a role in regulating the activity of genes – helping to switch
genes on or off.
miRNA function differs between cell types, she is looking directly at the miRNA
profile in MS lesions taken from the brain tissue of people with MS, something
that has only been done in a limited capacity before. Since miRNA molecules are
remarkably stable, there is great potential for them to be used as markers to
diagnose and predict disease outcome in MS.
In the first stage of
this project, Ms Sanders has looked at miRNA taken from specific immune cells
of people with secondary progressive MS and compared them to healthy controls.
Within these immune cells, Ms Sanders has identified three miRNAs which have
reduced activity in MS. This has not previously been identified in MS and is
currently being written up for publication.
second stage of the project will determine the miRNA signature within the brain
tissue of people with MS. This project has received tissue samples from the MS
Research Australia Brain Bank, which shall be used for the miRNA profiling.
These tissues are from secondary progressive MS individuals and therefore are
able to be compared to the miRNA profiles Ms Sanders identified in immune