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

Originally from Ottawa, Jonathan Allenger moved to Toronto after receiving his diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) five years ago in 2013. It was a time of mixed emotions as less than 24 hours before his diagnosis, he had heard his baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Jonathan adheres to a routine of eating well, staying active and finding ways to minimize stress in order to manage his disease.

Jonathan first became involved with the MS Society of Canada when he attended an education seminar soon after moving to the city. “I soon after joined a support group for individuals with MS and joined the local chapter Board of Directors,” he says. Jonathan has been part of the MS Bike fundraiser for many years and has been invited to speak about his journey at various events. “Once I got a taste as a volunteer, I never looked back because I knew that I wanted to make a difference.”

Recently Jonathan was asked to speak at the 2018 endMS Summer School (an annual interactive education program that aims to enhance knowledge and skills in MS research among trainees) which allowed the trainees in MS attending a reminder of why they got into MS research in the first place. It left a similar effect of encouragement in Jonathan. “I must say that I left with a renewed sense that the MS Society of Canada is taking several positive steps when it comes to investing in MS Research. The excitement in the room was palpable, the youthful exuberance was genuine.”

When asked what he hopes research will provide for people with MS? He responds, “Hope. Without hope, the weight of the unknown can be overwhelming, crushing even. My hope is that the investments that are made in research today result in material benefits to people impacted by MS tomorrow.”
Research Events and Funding Opportunities

MS Bike season is in full swing to raise funds for research and programs!

The MS Society’s MS Bike season is in full swing. Every year thousands of Canadians come together in their communities to fundraise for and participate in the 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 Bike page for more information.

Attend the MS Society of Canada hosted webinar on Preparing for the Future

The MS Society of Canada has an upcoming webinar on July 10, 2018 2:00-3:30 PM EDT as part of the National Education Webinar Series on “Preparing for the Future: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Karen Henderson is the Founder/CEO of the Long Term Care Planning Network, Canada’s leading resource centre for aging and long term care planning and education. Her seminar series, web site, newsletter and print/electronic tools are recognized as key international long term care educational resources. The current webinar will provide practical tips on planning for and meeting both the little and big planning challenges that face us all—from when is the right time to retire, to re-evaluating your location, to an easy way to keep your advance directive current. Helpful resources will also be provided. 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:

The 34th Congress of the European Committee for Treatments and research in MS (ECTRIMS) is accepting Late Breaking Abstracts

The Scientific Committee of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) welcomes the submission of Late Breaking Abstracts for presentations at the 34th Congress. The conference will take place October 10-12 in Berlin, Germany. Researchers can submit an abstract relating to new information and important findings that were not available before the general abstract deadline. Visit the ECTRIMS meeting website for additional information.

The MS Society’s Annual Research Competition is almost here

The MS Society is preparing for the Annual Research Competition which will open at the end of July. Researchers and trainees who are conducting MS research can apply to receive funding for operating grants, graduate studentships and postdoctoral fellowships. The Annual Competition is the MS Society’s flagship research program, supporting close to $7 million in biomedical and clinical research grants and awards each year. For more information visit the MS Society’s Funding Opportunities page.

Research Spotlight

Public Health Agency of Canada releases incidence and prevalence rates of Multiple Sclerosis in Canada

The Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS), supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), collects administrative data from every province and territory to generate national estimates on the prevalence and incidence of chronic diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS). The administrative data collected covers approximately 97% of the Canadian population. PHAC recently released the incidence and prevalence rates of MS in Canada from data that was collected between 2014 and 2015. Check out the MS News Update which talks about how CCDSS monitors MS, what the new incidence and prevalence rates of MS are, why these are different from those previously reported and what that means for Canadians diagnosed with MS.

Incidence and Prevalence: What do they mean, how new numbers are identified and why they are important?

Incidence and prevalence are two terms that are frequently used in epidemiology but are often mixed up or used incorrectly. Epidemiology is a branch of research that studies the distribution and determinants of health and illness within populations. Data generated from epidemiological research informs public health and can help understand the history of a disease and determine who is at risk of developing a disease. Distinguishing these two terms is important when discussing the patterns, causes, and effects of MS in the population. A blog on highlights the meaning of incidence and prevalence, methods to measure these statistics and why this is important.

Master’s, Doctoral and Postdoctoral trainees are highlighted for MS Awareness Month

On her blog, highlighted some master’s, doctoral and postdoctoral trainees that are currently funded by the MS Society of Canada. These trainees are #bringinguscloser to #endMS by focusing their research on a wide array of topics including progressive MS, imaging, genetics, the blood-brain barrier, symptom management, and environmental factors involved in MS, just to name a few. To learn more about how these trainees got involved in MS research, what they enjoy about research and more details on their project, check out

MS Society Funded Research

This month we are featuring a project led by Dr. Shannon Kolind. Dr. Kolind earned her PhD in Physics at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, developing ways to measure myelin, the insulating layer that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB) at the University of Oxford as well as the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. While in the UK, she specialized in developing new methods to image myelin in the brain and spinal cord and making these techniques more practical for use in research. She then returned to UBC, this time in the Division of Neurology, to become an Assistant Professor. Dr. Kolind’s lab is focused on developing a toolbox of tissue-specific imaging techniques. Her multi-disciplinary team employs these multi-modal tools to achieving greater sensitivity and specificity in clinical research; particularly for clinical trials of new therapies.

Dr. Kolind was awarded nearly $300,000 in the 2017-2018 Annual Competition to carry out a project establishing an imaging biomarker for disease progression in MS. Over the past three decades, clinical trials of promising therapies for progressive MS have relied on clinical measures of disease progression to test whether they are effective. Unfortunately, because these clinical measures change slowly and are difficult to measure objectively, clinical trials for progression require a very large number of people and long period of time. Biomarkers are biological clues from the body that can tell us about the state of a disease or the effect of a treatment. The most promising brain imaging biomarker in MS is change in brain volume, however this can take over a year to confirm and is only partially linked to progression. As a potential alternative, Dr. Kolind’s research team wants to explore the loss of myelin as a potential biomarker in MS. The integrity of myelin determines the health of brain cells, and myelin loss can reflect the severity of MS disease. Dr. Kolind’s research team plans to use imaging tools that can detect and measure structural changes in myelin, which in turn can provide information about disease progression. Dr. Kolind hopes that her findings will help to: (1) establish an approach that monitors myelin changes; (2) identify individuals at risk for severe progression; and (3) reduce the cost and time required for progressive MS clinical trials.

Did you know?

The MS Knowledge Network is the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada’s hub of knowledge and navigators, providing consistent, quality MS information and support for anyone in Canada. MS Navigators provide trusted information on all aspects of life with MS. Whether you’re living with the disease, working with or caring for someone with MS, being able to tap into current, reliable information will enable you to make informed choices. MS Navigators can help you find the information and support that is tailored to your unique situation.

It’s easy to connect with the MS Knowledge Network. MS Navigators are available to assist anyone in Canada from 8am to 8pm ET, Monday to Friday. Contact them today at 1-844-859-6789 or via email at Live web chat is also available by visit the MS Information or Support & Services sections of our website.
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:

Paying for the pills: Coverage or Compromise?

People with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) need to take a wide range of prescription medications to maintain health and prevent disability. However, long-term use of medications can be a serious financial burden. in Canada, the coverage for prescription medications is not universal and varies across the provinces, depending on the individual health and socio-economic status. As Canada contemplates national Pharmacare, needs of people living with MS and other disabilities need to be highlighted.

The purpose of this study is to identify if people diagnosed with MS and other spinal cord related conditions face any financial barriers in accessing necessary medications, and if so, what are the consequences for them? If you agree to participate, you will complete an online survey. You can also opt to answer the survey questions through phone. The survey will approximately require 15 minutes of your time for completion. For more information please visit the study page on the MS Research Portal.
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