Meet the Duchenne Research Fund Prize Award Winner 2021

Esther Fernández-Simón

Esther Fernandez-Simon is a post-doctoral researcher at Newcastle University in the John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre in the basic research strand. She is working on understanding the process of muscle fibre degeneration and the replacement of muscle tissue by fat and fibrosis that is common in muscular dystrophies and also to find new therapies that could slow down the progression of the disease.

Esther received her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) in 2015 and expanded her expertise in research through the Master in Biomedicine imparted at Universitat de Barcelona (UB). She performed the master’s project in Parc de Recerca Biomedica de Barcelona (PRBB) where she studied therapeutical approaches that could have an effect on preventing muscle wasting in cancer cachexia. In 2017 she started her PhD in medicine in the neuromuscular disorders group in Institut de Recerca Sant Pau (IR). Her doctoral thesis focused on potential biomarkers and therapeutic approaches in different muscular dystrophies.

At the recent WMS 2021 Virtual Congress, we were delighted to present Esther Fernandez-Simon with the Duchenne Research Fund Prize of 500 euros.

The award recognises the work of a young Duchenne muscular dystrophy researcher, specifically for the best presentation by a young Mylogist on therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is sponsored by The Duchenne Research Fund, a British based charity who have been sponsoring the WMS prize since 2012

We recently went back to Esther to find out more about what winning has meant to her and chat about her aspirations and inspirations within the field of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Who, or what, inspired you to enter the field of myology and muscular dystrophy?

What inspired me to enter into muscular dystrophy research was the number of unknown questions that still need to be answered. I started in the field of muscular dystrophies with Prof. Jordi Diaz in Barcelona in 2017. We work in a basic research group trying to understand the mechanisms that change in patient's muscles. Since I started until now, a lot of new discoveries in these mechanisms have been published, however there is still a lot of work to do to fully understand what is happening in the muscle.

Do you think winning the prize will change anything for you?

Of course. Winning the prize encourages me to further my work in basic research and also to grow as a researcher.

What would you say to future students?

Focusing on a well-established and good objective is the most important part at the beginning of a project. Knowing the question that you want to answer in your research is the basic. All the techniques that you need to apply for answering that question can be designed/learned after having a clear objective.

What are your aspirations?

To keep growing as a basic researcher and keep learning from the experts. Although there are really good groups working on muscular dystrophies, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Learning from experts in the fields together with the new technologies that can be done in basic research will allow us to better understand what is occurring in the muscle which will lead to finding new therapeutical approaches.

If you could sum up the most important characteristics of a myologist in three words, what would they be?

Hard-worker, patient and intelligent

Who, within the field of neuromuscular diseases, myology and muscular dystrophy, would you like to meet and why?

Professor Victor Dubowitz for his long trajectory in muscular dystrophies. Also, because his book about muscle biopsy was the first one I read about this field. I started the PhD in the neuromuscular group in Barcelona, and that book was the one recommended for all new students starting their PhD or MRes.

To find out more about the WMS congresses and prize winners:

2021 congress, visit www.wms2021.com/

2022 congress, visit https://www.wms2022.com/

Previous prize winners: https://www.worldmusclesociety.org/news/previous-congress-prize-winners

Published on 31 October 2021.

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This article is presented by the Education & Development Opportunities Committee.

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