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Research in Action - May 2018
Research in Action Newsletter
May 2018
Latest research news and updates from the MS Society of Canada
Research Profile

Giulia Cisbani started her journey in the world of neuroscience almost 9 years ago at the UniversitÚ Laval in Quebec. She had the opportunity to work on several projects, however, her primary focus was on cell replacement strategies for Huntington’s disease. “During this disease there is loss of brain cells, and I was very fascinated by the possibility of replacing the lost cells with healthy ones. I was very fortunate as I could study brains of people that previously received cell transplants and understand if this was a viable therapeutic option ,” says Giulia. She was introduced to multiple sclerosis when she began working as a lab manager after completing her PhD.

Now a Research Specialist at the MS Society of Canada, Giulia continues to use her knowledge from the lab in her everyday work. However, she has also been able to pick up new skills, “that were not really required in a lab setting. And although I applied for scholarships in the past, it is interesting to be on the other side and understand all the steps involved in the grant process.”

When asked what inspires/motivates her about her work, she responds, “I am very lucky to have found a very professional and easygoing environment and although I am not doing research anymore, I know that I am still contributing to advancing our knowledge of MS.”
Research Events and Funding Opportunities

Canada prepares for MS Walk and MS Bike to raise funds for research and programs!

The MS Society’s MS Walk and Bike season are in full swing. Every spring thousands of Canadians come together in their communities to fundraise for and participate in MS Walk and MS Bike. They take a stand against MS and support those who are affected by MS. Take the next step and join us as we work to build a more hopeful future for Canadians living with MS. Visit the MS Walk and MS Bike page for more information.

Attend the MS Society of Canada hosted webinar on the evolving landscape of MS Treatment

The MS Society of Canada has an upcoming webinar on May 29, 2018 1:00-2:00 PM MDT as part of the National Education Webinar Series on “The evolving landscape of MS Treatment.” Amy Semaka, Pharmacist, working in Edmonton will present on drug development and patient safety, biosimilars and their regulation, recent drug news and future prospects, drug support programs, role for atypical and controversial therapies, patient advocacy issues and the role of the pharmacist in MS management. Visit the webinar website for more information and to register.

PhD and Postdoctoral Fellow positions available at the University of British Columbia

The Pharmacoepidemiology in Multiple Sclerosis (PiMS) group, led by Dr. Helen Tremlett at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia), is seeking highly qualified and motivated PhD and Postdoctoral Fellows to join the team. This is an exciting opportunity that will provide an excellent training environment for qualified researchers who are interested in studying multiple sclerosis. For details about these positions, please visit Should you have any questions or if you would like to apply, please email (cc in:
Research Spotlight

Clinical trial finds online meditation course improves short-term well-being in MS

Depression, anxiety, and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms of MS that can interfere with QoL. While disease-modifying therapies for MS can impact the disease course, they usually do not result in a significant improvement in an individual’s QoL. Researchers are turning to wellness approaches to reduce the impact of MS symptoms and thereby increase QoL. A clinical trial, led by a team of researchers, including Cesare Cavalera and Francesco Pagnini and colleagues from the UniversitÓ Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy, investigated whether a type of meditation called mindfulness-based intervention could improve well-being in MS. The results were recently published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal Read results of the trial here.

AAN releases practice guideline for starting, switching, and stopping disease-modifying therapies

The American Association of Neurology (AAN) released practice guideline recommendations to help physicians and people living with MS choose among the approved DMTs. The guidelines, developed by a panel of experts and individuals living with MS, summarize different DMTs based on published evidence on their safety and efficacy profiles and make recommendations on when to start, switch and stop therapy. For more information, read the MS Update here.

MS Society Funded Research

This month we are featuring a project led by Dr. Mark Horwitz, a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at The University of British Columbia. Dr. Horwitz obtained his PhD from the University of Minnesota and went on to post-doctorate training at the Scripps Research Institute with a focus on virus pathology and autoimmune disease. The focus of the Horwitz lab is examining mechanisms through which viruses induce chronic conditions, like MS.

Dr. Horwitz was awarded over $350,000 in the 2017-2018 Annual Competition to carry out a project studying the mechanistic role of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in MS. EBV, best known as the cause of infectious mononucleosis (mono), is believed to play a role in the cause of MS. The risk of developing MS is 10 times greater in individuals infected with EBV during childhood, and 20 times greater in those who have developed mononucleosis. In his previous grant, also funded by the MS Society, Dr. Horwitz identified that mice infected with an EBV-like virus developed a disease highly reminiscent of MS. His current project builds on these findings to further examine the mechanism by which EBV influences the development of MS. The ultimate goal of Dr. Horwitz’s project is to refine therapeutics to interrupt these specific EBV-immune interactions and prevent MS.

Did you know?

The MS Society of Canada research team developed a new “Hot Topics” page on Risk and Prognostic Factors. Canada has one of the highest rates of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), yet the cause of MS is incompletely understood. Researchers are invested in identifying the underlying cause of MS and have found that multiple factors are involved. These risk factors, or exposures that increase the chance of developing MS, fall under different categories; the environment, infectious agents, and genetics and in combination, are thought to play a role in the onset of MS. More recently, researchers have found that the bacteria that line a person’s intestines (gut) has the capacity to influence the development of the disease. Understanding how each of these risk factors give rise to MS could lead to targeted treatments of MS and ultimately, a cure. For more information, check out the full webpage.
Get Involved in a Research Study
The MS Research Portal is a resource provided by the MS Society of Canada that aims to connect Canadian researchers seeking participants for studies with people affected by MS who want to get involved in research. Each month, this section will highlight a select study hosted on the Portal. This month’s feature study is:

The progressive effect of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis on gait variability measured using a body-fixed accelerometer.

Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, and as such the goal of this research project is to develop methods to evaluate mobility in persons with MS (PwMS) using readily-available sensor technology. A long-term objective is to use this technology to clinically assess disease progression and provide information that has the potential to be used for the prescription and evaluation of therapeutic interventions. This project will determine whether two select gait variability (GV) measures, stride time variability and the fractal scaling index (FSI) of stride time, can be used to discriminate between the gait of PwMS and non-MS controls. It will also determine whether these measures differ according to the level of disability in PwMS. The study is looking for anyone with relapsing-remitting MS (EDSS level 2-5) and who has been relapse free for 30 days prior to testing. For more information please visit the study page on the MS Research Portal.
In Other MS News...
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