When I was younger, I had no interest in science, especially in school. I thought it was just about molecules, atoms and dissecting things. I wasn’t the best at biology, let alone chemistry or physics, so I didn’t keep on science as a subject for my junior or leaving cert. I chose other subjects over science and now I kind of wish that I knew more. We always heard about many famous male scientists in school; the likes of Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton being the most prominent. There was little or no mention of famous female scientists, something that has changed in more recent times.
Over the years, we might have heard of some of these women in science
- Rachel Carson-Environmental scientist
- Sarah Seager- Discovered 715 new planets
- Marie Curie-The only person to win a Nobel prize in two different sciences
- To Youyou-first Chinese woman to win a Nobel prize in 2015 for creating an anti-malaria drug, which went on to save millions of lives.
As we know science includes the environment and over the past few years, we have heard so much about Climate Change and Global warming. There is one young girl who has risen to fame over the past few years and that is Greta Thunberg. Now I know Greta isn’t a scientist, but she is an environmental activist who has been an advocate for the climate crisis. She started voicing her concerns at just the age of 15. Now the 17-year-old continues to pave the way for environmental scientists. She is using the facts from science to help the environment and spread awareness. Greta is teaching us a lesson that humans are the cause of climate change and we need to act. Greta is inspiring and paving the way for many other young women wishing to pursue a career in the science field.
We all know that the world is heating up. What could global warming mean for those with chronic illnesses?
It will affect the air we breathe, the food we eat, the climate we live in. We all know that vitamin D is good for MS and MS diagnoses are more common in the areas furthest away from the equator. It's also important to remember that temperature change can cause pseudo exacerbations in people with MS when temperatures rise. It doesn’t cause new damage but if the world continues heating up, I would hate to endure MS symptoms in extreme conditions. The air we breathe will also change and anyone with respiratory conditions might suffer. Infections may spread and those on immune suppressants would be more open to picking up. The treatments for relapsing MS all depend on suppressing our immune systems to trick the body into not attacking our brains.
MS research over the years has dramatically changed the quality of life for those living with the condition and for health professionals. 1981 saw the start of using brain MRI’s to diagnose MS. 1993 saw the first Disease-Modifying Therapies to slow down the progression in relapsing MS. 2019, in Ireland, there are now 17 different types of Disease-Modifying therapies used for Relapsing forms of MS. Four types of infused medications, five oral and eight self-injected.
MS is 2/3 times more common in women than men. Additionally, less than 30% of world researchers are women. With MS being more common in females, there is a much-needed demand for female researchers of MS. One prominent female researcher is Veronique Miron. Her current research is focusing on finding ways to treat and repair damaged myelin in MS patients. It is important figures such as Veronique who lead the way into finding not only treatments for MS, but perhaps one day a cure.
Current research taking place which is entitled ‘A multidisciplinary study of cognition in Multiple Sclerosis’ is being carried out by Professor Orla Hardiman in Beaumont hospital. I was delighted to be asked to take part in this study which consisted of numerous cognition tests. The research assistant who conducted my tests was Marta Pinto-Grau
It is empowering to know that these female researchers are conducting this study to improve understanding and are potentially helping to change the quality of life for people with MS who struggle with cognitive issues. By undertaking this research, Hardiman and her team are hoping to further develop their understanding of the cognitive changes in MS to help improve the needs of patients. Cognition difficulties and changes with thinking and memory are common in MS and research projects like these could prove to be potentially life-changing for MS patients who struggle with basic cognition.