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

Thomas Edwards, recipient of an MS Society funded Master’s studentship, was first introduced to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) while volunteering as an exercise coach in a community-based exercise centre during his undergraduate studies. The complexity of the disease was something he found interesting and challenging as both an exercise coach but also as a researcher. “My time in this exercise centre really motivated me to pursue research and attempt to answer some of the questions people with MS have with regards to exercise training,” says Thomas.

Currently working under the supervision of Dr. Lara Pilutti at the University of Ottawa, Thomas is working on a study that will examine the effects of functional electrical stimulation (FES) cycling exercise, which are small electric charges that help stimulate a muscle that is weakened, for people with MS who experience difficulty walking. “Hopefully FES cycling exercise can promote improvements in walking ability for people with MS, but also improvements in physical fitness as well.” One of the best parts of working in the lab is the constant interaction with participants which allows him to think of the research from the perspective of someone affected by MS. “These participants take time out of their day to visit our lab and it’s always motivating to work closely with participants who are enthusiastic, passionate, and excited to be an integral part of the research process.”

When asked what he hopes research will bring in the near future, Thomas responds “I hope it will provide people living with MS valuable strategies that can be used to improve their health, physical function, and quality of life. I know each person living with MS faces a different set of challenges every day and I hope that the combined efforts of all the great researchers focusing on MS can provide people living with MS the tools they need to overcome these challenges and live healthy lives.”
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.

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:

The MS Society welcomes applications for operating grants, pilot grants, and personnel awards

The MS Society’s Annual Competition is now open and is accepting applications for operating and pilot grants in the biomedical and clinical and population health research streams, as well as for master’s studentship awards, doctoral studentship awards, and postdoctoral fellowships. Interested candidates must apply through the MS Society’s online grants management system Easygrants. To learn more, visit the MS Society’s Funding Opportunities page.

Research Spotlight

Updates on the 3rd Scientific Congress of the Progressive MS Alliance: Making a difference through rehabilitation and Symptom Management

The 3rd Scientific Congress of the Progressive MS Alliance was held in Toronto, Ontario between May 22-24, 2018. The meeting brought together global leaders in the field to assess the challenges of progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) research with a particular focus on rehabilitation and symptom management. With over 220 participants from 16 countries, this was the largest Congress to date for the Alliance. Throughout the week, researchers and clinicians provided their insights on lessons that can be learned from other conditions such as stroke and spinal cord injury and shared their research on symptom management and rehabilitation including brain stimulation, robotics, patient perspectives, exercise and cognition, and how they could be applied specifically in MS. To give a detailed overview of the Congress, Dr. Karen Lee is sharing all that we learned into three blogs. The first will focus on the lessons learned from the field of stroke and stroke recovery. This will be followed by a second post on how we can take the lessons from stroke and move forward to develop new strategies for MS. Finally, the third post will focus on things that need to be kept in consideration relating to well-being when developing rehabilitation and symptom management studies. Check out all the details on
MS Society Funded Research

Dr. Dalia Rotstein, Assistant professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto

This month we are featuring Dr. Dalia Rotstein, a neurologist at St. Michael’s Hospital, and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Neurology at the University of Toronto. Her clinical specializations are in multiple sclerosis (MS) and demyelinating diseases. She is a graduate of Harvard University, received her medical degree from McGill University and a Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. She completed a neurology residency at the University of Toronto and an MS fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her research is focused on the epidemiology of MS and neuromyelitis optica (NMO), in particular, the role of ethnicity, gender, and vitamin D in disease risk and disease course. She is also actively involved in international neurology education. In 2009 she founded the Neurology International Residents’ Videoconferencing Exchange (NIRVE) and now serves as the faculty mentor for this program.

Dr. Rotstein was awarded over $150,000 in the 2017-2018 Annual Competition to carry out a project relating to immigration and the risk of developing MS. Studying rates of MS amongst immigrants to Canada can help to understand why Canada is one of the regions at higher risk for MS in the world. Immigrants are thought to be at lower risk for developing MS than people born in Canada, but their risk is still believed to be higher than that in their native countries. The awareness that being in the Canadian environment may pose an MS risk can encourage increased efforts towards prevention, such as through vitamin D supplements. Looking at health care utilization and health outcomes will help identify any gaps in access to care or treatments that exist for immigrants with MS. In this study, Dr. Dalia Rotstein’s will study the risk of developing MS amongst immigrants in Ontario, which may lead to the creation of the largest and most diverse cohort of immigrants with MS. Administrative data will be used to understand how access to health resources for immigrants with MS compares to access for Canadian-born individuals with MS. Specifically, it will allow the research team to compare between socio-demographic factors such as age, sex and where people live to health outcomes such as the presence of disease or mortality and health care utilization in a cohort of immigrants. These findings will allow health professionals to tailor their care to the unique needs of the immigrant population with MS, while also providing important insights into risk factors for MS in general.

Did you know?

Clinical trials are research studies that involve testing or studying a treatment in people to see if it is safe and effective. Each phase of a clinical trial follows a protocol and has a specific goal. The information gathered in a trial is used to build knowledge about the new treatment and support the subsequent phases of the research process. For more information, visit the MS Society MS Information on clinical trials.
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:

Exercise and Brain Health in People with MS

This project will explore the effectiveness of an exercise intervention on inflammation and brain health in adults with MS. Participants will be followed in the study for 24 weeks; for 12 of these weeks they will participate in supervised exercise, twice-weekly, at McMaster University, and for the other 12 weeks they will continue with their usual activities at home. For more information please visit the study page on the MS Research Portal.
In Other MS News...
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