Meredith Hartley is part of a team creating new possibilities for treating people with multiple sclerosis. The team of scientists and physicians recently discovered a compound that stimulates repair to the protective sheath surrounding neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Hartley, a postdoctoral researcher in physiology and pharmacology, conducts research in Tom Scanlan’s laboratory.
What are you researching and why is it a big deal?
I am interested in understanding neurological diseases, like multiple sclerosis, that involve damage to myelin. The myelin sheath surrounds and protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and there is no approved therapy for repairing the sheath.
My research has focused on evaluating drugs that can help repair myelin. This is a major unmet clinical need, as currently there are no approved therapies that can promote remyelination.
In my recent work, I demonstrated that myelin repair can be stimulated by a compound that was developed by my coworkers in the Scanlan laboratory. This is very exciting, because this study represents the scientific basis for clinical evaluation of potential treatments for MS.
What discovery has been really exciting for you?
Evaluating drugs in animal models of diseases is a high-risk/high-reward adventure, so every time I have observed a drug effect acting on brain tissue has been a great moment. However, the second (or third or fourth!) time I see the effect is even more exciting.
Another exciting moment was when I participated in a National MS Society Bike MS event with a team that raised money to sponsor my postdoctoral fellowship. It was inspiring for me to have the support of a team of people who are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of people living with MS.
What does your day-to-day life as a researcher look like?
The great thing about being a postdoc is that no two days are alike and I am always learning new things. My days involve experimental work including animal studies, tissue histology, imaging, and mass spectrometry to quantify lipids. I also spend time writing manuscripts, talking about science, reading scientific literature, and most importantly – eating lunch!
Recently I have been working on my science Twitter account as I prepare to start my own laboratory as an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department at the University of Kansas in January 2020.
In the Lab
The In the Lab series looks at the people who help make OHSU such a vibrant research institution. In each post, researchers and clinician scientists describe their current work and life as researchers.