To help us mark World Cerebral Palsy Day on 5 October, Action funded researcher Dr Veronique Miron explains how she’s working to harness the power of the natural healing process to help brain repair, and so improve children’s quality of life.
Veronique’s team comprises Claire Davies, Graeme Ireland, Frances Evans (back row, left to right),
Amy Lloyd (middle row, left), Rebecca Holloway and Alessandra Dillenburg (front row).
Veronique is in the middle of the front row here.
What inspired you to investigate this particular area?
I’ve always been interested in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), how it reacts to injury, and the natural healing processes that help repair it. My research has long been focused on how the insulation around nerves, called white matter, can be regenerated after injury in adults to restore nerve health. Through discussions with researchers and clinicians at my university, I became aware that some newborn babies with brain injury don’t repair their white matter, which can lead to the development of cerebral palsy. Because cerebral palsy can cause major disability and affects 17 million people worldwide, I was keen to apply what I had discovered about repair in adults to encourage this repair in infants following brain injury.
What does Action funding for this study mean to you?
Since there are no available therapies to repair white matter, funding from Action Medical Research is critical for us to discover ways we can support brain repair in babies and prevent or treat cerebral palsy. This funding has given us the opportunity to identify the cells, molecules and conditions involved in brain repair, bringing us one step closer to developing new effective drugs for infants following brain injury.
What does a typical day look like for you … or is every day different?
Every day is different, stimulating, and challenging! My work involves designing and carrying out experiments, meeting with lab members and colleagues to discuss ideas, learning about new research by reading published studies and attending talks, and presenting our work at conferences to get feedback on our research.
Can you tell us a bit about your team?
My team is composed of two technicians, Graeme Ireland and Rebecca Holloway, two PhD students Alessandra Dillenburg and Amy Lloyd, and one post-doctoral fellow, Claire Davies, all working on understanding white matter repair and developing new ways to encourage it. My lab also interacts with clinician-researchers in our centre, the Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health, such as Professor James Boardman and Professor Jane Norman, who are both world-renowned experts in neonatal health and pregnancy outcomes.
Who’s your research hero, and why?
Marie Curie. First woman to win a Nobel prize, first person and only woman to win twice, first female professor in Paris. She had so many barriers to overcome and her love of science overcame them.
As a charity, Action began in 1952 with our founder’s quest to find a cure for polio. What led you to a career in medical research?
Interest, curiosity, and wanting to improve quality of life in people with disability.
Action’s loyal and lovable mascot Paddington Bear™ is very fond of marmalade sandwiches. What’s your favourite snack?
Frozen maple syrup on a stick – my Canadian upbringing shining through!
Tell us something that will surprise us!
My lab members and I are huge Harry Potter fans. We’ve been sorted into Hogwarts houses and are planning a movie marathon!
You can find out more about Dr Miron's Action funded three year study at the University of Edinburgh here.