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Affiliation(s): University of British Columbia
Associate Professor, Radiology / Pathology & Laboratory Medicine / Physics & Astronomy
Dr. Cornelia (Corree) Laule is a physicist and has been conducting magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research for over 20 years. After her PhD in MR physics which focused on developing a myelin specific imaging method, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship in neuropathology investigating how MRI measures correlate with histology in MS brain and spinal cord. She is now an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia and an Associate Director of the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD). She is interested in understanding the microstructural and pathological determinants which govern MRI image contrast in central nervous system (CNS) tissue. Her primary area of research is MS and she has extensive experience in imaging both in vivo and post mortem MS brain and spinal cord, with emphasis on characterizing myelin. She also focuses on acute and degenerative spinal cord injury, and collaborates to study many other CNS applications including schizophrenia, depression, cerebral malaria, amyoplasia, and leukodystrophies, as well development and aging in normal controls. She is particularly interested in myelin and plans to use biochemical analysis and electron microscopy to understand how variations in myelin composition and structure may influence MRI measures. For further information regarding Dr. Laule’s research, please visit her website at www.mripathology.ca and follow her on twitter @mripathology.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
During the 3rd year of my undergrad I took a course called "Intro to Biophysics" where I learned that you can use big magnets to look inside people's brains - I was in awe that something completely safe could make such beautiful, high resolution pictures. The professor showed an example of why MRI was a useful technology - an image of the brain from someone with MS. In the same class I also learned about myelin, this amazingly complicated substance that lets signals travel quickly through our brain and spinal cord, but which is often damaged in MS. Approaching the professor, who was in the early days of using MRI to measure myelin in MS, led to a summer job and eventually a PhD. 20+ years later, that professor is still my colleague. I'm inspired to continue with my research because every answer leads to more questions, and the more questions we ask, the closer we get to understanding MS.
Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?
My research exists because of collaborations. As an MRI physicist, I have many technical skills, but no formal biological or clinical training. To develop new MRI tools to help people with MS, I need to understand the biological changes that happen in the brain and spinal cord when someone is living with the disease. I work very closely with neuropathologists who are highly skilled at understanding tissue changes through a microscope, neurologists and nurses who care for people with MS, and radiologists who are experts in looking at MRI images. Other technical experts are also key to my research, including fellow MR physicists, computer scientists who develop new image analysis programs, MRI technologists who are skilled in operating the MRI scanner, histology technicians who are artists in processing our tissue specimens, immunologists who speak the language of cells which I'm trying to learn, engineers who design equipment I use for my experiments and statisticians who help us test our research questions. And then there are the administrators, coordinators and managers, without whom everything would fall apart!
How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?
The MS Society has supported me at literally every step in my career path. I received MS Society scholarships for my MSc and PhD, was then employed as a study coordinator and research scientist from MS Society operating grant funds, then received an MS Society Transitional Career Development Award which funded my post-doctoral fellowship and the first years of being an assistant professor, and now as faculty, where I have an MS Society operating grant and supervise graduate students who have their own MS Society scholarships.