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

Dr. Elaine Kingwell’s first introduction to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) was in high school when a close friend was diagnosed. “Back then I knew of MS as a potentially devastating disease that affected young people around me, in an unpredictable way in the prime of their life,” she says. Dr. Kingwell went on to complete her Master’s in Neuroscience and PhD in Epidemiology. Her first introduction to MS research was when she joined the research team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) as a postdoctoral trainee. “When I entered the MS research field as a postdoctoral fellow, funded by the MS Society of Canada, I brought with me training and experience in brain science and research methods, as well as a keen interest in learning about MS, and tackling important questions about this complicated and challenging condition.”

Dr. Kingwell is currently working on several MS-related projects at UBC including one that looks at the risk of MS among individuals infected with HIV. This study, which is funded by the MSSC, looks at whether the infection with HIV, or it’s treatment drugs, changes the risk of MS. “We are hoping to learn about the possible role of certain types of viruses (retroviruses) and the drugs that are used to treat these infections, in the development of MS. If we identify a link between either HIV or HIV drug treatments, and the risk of MS, this will contribute to our understanding of how MS develops.”

Working as a Research Associate and Epidemiologist in the field of MS means that no two days are alike. Dr. Kingwell is kept busy with a diverse role that includes everything from designing MS research projects and protocols to mentoring graduate and undergraduate trainees and staff to preparing and giving research presentations. “In addition to the variety, I enjoy the research process itself; making discoveries, problem-solving and continually learning. I am motivated by the unanswered, challenging questions and by the powerful commitment of the MS community, including trainees, researchers, clinicians and other health professionals, and those affected by MS.”

Dr. Kingwell knows that when it comes to research, a cure is the end goal, however, it is also important that research bring about improved quality of life for people who are affected by MS. “Even during the last decade since I joined the MS research community, there have been significant advances in the understanding of MS and management options. While cure and prevention of MS is the ultimate goal, research must provide relevant answers for people who are living with MS today.”
Research Events and Funding Opportunities

Members of the public are invited to have their say in the research review process

The MS Society’s research department is accepting applications for Community Representatives — members of the public who have a personal connection to MS and are interested in playing an important role in deciding which research grant and award applications will be funded. If you are affected by MS, are involved in the MS community, and have a desire to be involved in the research review process, visit Community Representatives for more information and to fill in an application.

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.

34th Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS)

The 34th European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ECTRIMS meeting will be taking place between October 10-12 in Berlin, Germany. One of the world’s largest forums bringing together scientists and researchers in the MS field, the annual meeting will feature exciting scientific and teaching programs, poster sessions and special sessions for MS nurses and medical students. The MS Society research team will be on-site to attend the presentations and poster sessions and share the latest MS research updates from the conference. Follow along on Twitter (@Dr_KarenLee), the MS Society’s research blog, and the MS Society’s Facebook page to hear the latest on topics like clinical trials, risk factors, symptom management, neuroprotection and more.

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:

Graduate student position available at Laval University

The laboratory of Dr. Luc Vallières is looking for an enthusiastic, hardworking, highly motivated, rigorous, and interactive graduate student with strong interest in neuroimmunology and the following qualifications: Degree (B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.) in a relevant discipline, knowledge in immunology, good academic record, good writing skills, and potential experience in scientific publications and communications. Interested applicants must submit by e-mail a statement of research interests, a curriculum vitae, a list of publications, a recent academic record, and the names and addresses of three references to:

Dr. Luc Vallières, Ph.D., Professor
Department of Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University
Neuroscience Unit, Laval University Hospital Research Center
2705 Laurier Boulevard, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, G1V 4G2
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 of Canada funded study reveals a new mechanism that prevents the death of brain cells in MS

Currently, cell death mechanisms in MS are broadly investigated. It is known that the two particular cell types that are susceptible to death in MS are oligodendrocytes and microglia. Oligodendrocytes are responsible for myelin production and are damaged in MS but the mechanism underlying their death remains unknown. Similarly, microglia are the primary immune cells in the CNS and their role is to remove debris and stimulate immune responses, however, the factors regulating their survival in MS are still being investigated. To better understand the causes of inflammation and cell death in MS, neurologist, and researcher from the University of Alberta, Dr. Chris Power, examined the mechanisms regulating inflammation and cell death in MS. This work, supported by the MS Society of Canada and University Hospital Foundation, was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of the United States of America (PNAS). For more information, check out the MS Update.

Evidence of non-MS related health issues in the five years leading up to first MS-related symptom

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 including genetic and environmental factors. The idea that environmental factors may contribute to MS suggests that MS may take years to develop prior to the manifestation of the disease. Early non-specific signs and symptoms occurring years prior to confirmed clinical diagnosis is called the prodrome. Prodromes have been identified for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and provided insight into the causes of the disease as well as stimulated new research. To date, there is limited research suggesting that an MS prodrome exists.

A study conducted by MS-Society-funded researchers, including Helen Tremlett, from the University of British Columbia, ventured to identify the clinical characteristics of the MS prodrome. Their research was recently published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.
MS Society Funded Research

Dr. Rashmi Kothary, Senior Scientist, Regenerative Medicine Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

This month we are featuring Dr. Rashmi Kothary, Deputy Scientific Director and Senior Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI). He received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of British Columbia and pursued postdoctoral research at the Mount Sinai Hospital Research Institute in Toronto. It was during these formative years that Dr. Kothary developed his interests in the use of genetically modified mice to model disease pathology. In 1998, Dr. Kothary joined the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and held the University Health Research Chair in Neuromuscular Disorders. Dr. Kothary was also appointed Professor at the University of Ottawa. His current research focuses on investigating extrinsic and intrinsic factors important for oligodendrocyte mediated myelination and remyelination of the central nervous system (in the context of Multiple Sclerosis), and understanding Spinal Muscular Atrophy pathogenesis and identifying novel therapeutics for this devastating children’s disease. He has served on the scientific advisory board for MS Society of Canada, MDA and Cure SMA, and is a reviewer for the CIHR, NIH and Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Dr. Kothary was awarded over $300,000 in the 2017-2018 Annual Competition to carry out a project on small genetic molecules, called microRNAs, and their role in regulating myelin-producing cells called oligodendrocytes. Dr. Rashmi Kothary’s research team is looking deep into the genetic code of oligodendrocytes to see if there are any important clues that will reveal why repair is inefficient or blocked in people with MS. His findings to date have revealed an increase in expression of a small genetic molecule, miR-145, in MS lesions. His research’s team plans to test if increasing or decreasing the levels of miR-145 in both MS-like cellular and animal models will be beneficial or detrimental in the progression of the disease. Dr. Kothary hopes that the findings from his studies will have an impact on the development of future therapeutic strategies targeting myelin repair, which is crucial in MS.

Did you know?

In 2012, an initiative was launched to involve people in the MS community termed Community Representatives in the review process. Community Representatives are people who have a personal connection to MS, and thus are able to comment on how the research will influence their day to day living and what the outcomes of the research mean to them and the broader MS community. Through the engagement of Community Representatives in the review process, the MS Society aims to provide a venue for people affected by MS to have their voices heard in regards to research, while at the same time have the opportunity to learn more about the ongoing research that is happening in Canada. Applications to become a community representative are now open. Interested applicants should visit the website for more information.
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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