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Helping to solve the MS riddle

Steven Petratos at work with PhD student Amani Alrehaili

Neurobiologist Steven Petratos says there are two major reasons why he gravitated towards a career in multiple sclerosis (MS) research.

He had had exceptional lecturers in the field when he was a university student and he had a grandfather with MS when he was a young boy.

Petratos remembers his mother was distraught when his grandfather died, more than 30 years after he was diagnosed with MS.

Petratos went on to learn a lot about the debilitating nature of his grandfather's condition as he grew up.

"He had to be supported without the therapies that we have for MS sufferers today," Petratos says. "When you think about what was available in the '50s, when he was first diagnosed, it was very difficult to treat with anything. So he was very much debilitated from a relatively young age. That was very much in the forefront of my thinking about what type of research I wanted to pursue in the future."

Petratos is a senior lecturer in pathology at Monash University.   He co-ordinates a human pathology course and oversees the quality of the data generated by the doctoral, masters and honours students he supervises.

The role requires the kind of input that sees Petratos regularly trying to cram two or three weeks into one, he says.

Not that he's complaining.

"I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to contribute to the world of medical research. I suppose that's a legacy I'll leave behind when I pass away. My overall ambition is to contribute significantly to the point where it helps to find a cure for the disease."

Petratos completed his PhD in neuropathology at the University of Melbourne from 1993-1999. Since then, he's received numerous awards and honours. In 2014, he led his research team to be the only one in Australia selected for funding from the International Progressive MS Alliance.

The ensuing research project involves Petratos and his team investigating stem cell therapies for brain disorders. He's involved in research into MS progression and therapy that inhibits damage to nerve cells.

Attracting the funding was great news, Petratos says, but the research world he belongs to is extremely competitive.

"To be quite honest, the competition over the last few years is the worst I've ever seen it — especially in this country. It limits the amount of funding I receive and I'm not alone in that. There are some sensational Australian scientists that have a reduced amount of funding and can't do the type of work they are capable of doing. So a lot of them have to leave Australia."

Petratos says the ideal career outcome for him in the next 12 months would be his team having a major announcement to make regarding a new therapy. "We've made substantial progress in understanding progressive MS," he says.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by SYDNEYMORNINGHERALD
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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