“On June 26, 2020, I woke up, finished my morning routine, and immediately started pacing around the house. It was finally the day, the day where the world learns about what I spent 5 years doing, and the day where five highly esteemed researchers decide if I am worthy of becoming Dr. Elisabeth Kilroy. When it was finally time to start, I went upstairs to my home office/gym/yoga studio and logged on to Zoom. I never, in a million years, imagined that this space would become the main stage for my dissertation defense. I also never imagined the series of events that would lead me here.
In March 2020, a new addition arrived in the lab: DanioVision, a video-tracking device that collects swim activity data for individual zebrafish. With the help of the Morgan Hoffmann Foundation and their generous research grant, the lab was finally able to purchase it. DanioVision gives us the ability to study muscle function, in real time, across multiple days. For me and my neuromuscular electrical stimulation studies, it was a game changer because now I could learn how stimulating dystrophic muscle impacted its function. However, about two weeks after it arrived, and two experiments later, the world came to a crashing halt. Research stopped completely and I was no longer allowed in the lab.
We can all agree that March came with a whirlwind of emotions and uncertainties. Without lab and conducting experiments, I was lost. For the past five years, I had a single mission: to understand how inactivity versus electrical stimulation affects dystrophic muscle. The data that came in right before the mandatory stay-at-home order demonstrated that inactivity was extremely detrimental to our zebrafish model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Conversely, electrical stimulation, as defined by a series of high frequency, low voltage pulses, improved multiple components of muscle health. These data were the icing on the cake and I knew it was time to move forward and combine electrical stimulation with current therapeutic targets. But, instead of moving forward on these experiments, I moved to Columbus, OH.
In April, my fiancé, Gabriel, informed me that his lab was moving to Columbus, Ohio in August. I knew that I could not pass up this opportunity to go with him. During the 2019 MHF Pro-Am, I met a Hoff Hero who traveled to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus to meet with a renowned doctor who specializes in neuromuscular diseases, specifically Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. That night, and during my time lounging, waiting for golfers to tee off, I spent time reading about his research and the strides he was making towards a cure. I knew immediately that one day I would join his research team.”
Now, I am Dr. Elisabeth Kilroy, a Post-Doctoral Scientist in the lab of Dr. Kevin Flanigan at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Thinking back, none of this would be possible without the help of MHF and the network of individuals they are building who are all on a mission to cure muscular dystrophy.