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Scientific nod to Hawke’s Bay local for commitment to multiple sclerosis research

4 February 2019

A state-of-the-art piece of scientific equipment has been named after a Hawke’s Bay hero, in recognition of years of hard work supporting multiple sclerosis research.

Kitty Johnson, partner of the late Hepa Paewai, has had a new Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorter (FACS) cytometer named after her, in the joint Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and Victoria University of Wellington laboratory led by Professor Anne La Flamme.

The FACS is a key piece of technology used in many scientific laboratories to identify and analyse specific cells types involved in diseases such as MS. The FACS, which was secured through a Lottery Health Grant, will help Prof La Flamme and her team further research into finding better therapies for people with MS.

For Prof La Flamme, the decision to name the new FACS after Kitty was an easy one.

“Because we work so closely with this equipment, we give each key instrument a name. This cell sorter was christened Kitty, whose support on the board of the Great New Zealand Trek over the years has enabled us to do so much with our research. We have great hopes the new Kitty will be as instrumental to our work as her namesake.”

The Great New Zealand Trek has spent the last decade traversing the length of the country, raising funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis research. The trek visits some of the most remote and beautiful areas of New Zealand, with hundreds of trekkers and volunteers taking part annual. To date, the trek has raised over $300,000 towards the Malaghan Institute’s multiple sclerosis research programme.

The trek, which is entering the final leg of its journey, is scheduled to reach Bluff late March this year. In recognition of Kitty Johnson’s key contributions to recreation and multiple sclerosis, she was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.