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Research in Action - March 2019
Research in Action Newsletter
March 2019
Latest research news and updates from the MS Society of Canada
Research Profile

Within weeks of moving into her new home, Heather Blumenthal felt her face go numb—this was her first MS attack. When diagnosed with MS, Heather believed that her future included a wheelchair, unable to get to her bathroom, located on the second floor of her home or her office, located on the third floor. “Fast forward 20 years, and we’re still in the same house, and I’m still climbing those stairs every day (though cursing a little more some days than others!),” says Heather.

Heather volunteered as a community representative in January and provided insights into the grants, sitting side-by-side with scientific experts. Heather brought 20 years of experience as a writer and editor in health research. “I was impressed with the careful - and equal - consideration given to the person, the project, and the lab environment in which they [trainees] would be working. All the members of the review panel were concerned not only with the research itself but also with the development of the researcher as they moved along the continuum to being an independent investigator in their own lab,” says Heather.

Heather hopes that research will find new insights that can repair the damage caused by MS. “Even if I were cured tomorrow, I would still have a lot of residual disability,” says Heather. The possibility of the reversal of her disability would mean she can ride her bike or skate on the Rideau Canal again.
Research Events and Funding Opportunities

MS Society of Canada announces funding for new researchers and trainees.

The MS Society of Canada is pleased to announce the funding decisions for the 2019 - 2020 research grants and awards competitions. The MS Society of Canada congratulates the applicants who have been awarded funding and acknowledges the hard work and dedication to MS research of the many applicants whose applications were highly ranked but did not receive funding. This year, we are pleased to provide millions in funding to support 15 investigator-led grants, 14 Postdoctoral Fellows, 24 Doctoral Studentships and 7 Master’s Studentship. For more information, see the funding announcement webpage.

MS Walk and MS Bike gear up for another season!

The MS Society’s MS Walk and Bike season are upon us. 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 multiple sclerosis. 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 pages for more information.

MS Society partners with CIHR to fund research on cannabis

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announced a partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to provide $1.5 million in funding for cannabis and MS research. The funding will go towards research into the use of cannabis to manage symptoms associated with MS and its effect on the disease. The $1.5 million investment will span over five years to help accelerate cannabis health research in MS. Applications involving basic science, clinical, health services, and policy research approaches will be considered. The deadline for letters of intent is May 15, 2019. Please visit the MS Society Funding Opportunities webpage for more information.
Research Spotlight

MS-Society of Canada research team attends the ACTRIMS Forum 2019 to report on the emerging concepts, cutting-edge developments and precision medicine in MS

At the emerging concepts session, the research team reported on a potential new way to identify individuals that may be at risk of progression from relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) to secondary-progressive MS (SPMS), a new target that may prevent inflammation in MS, and an aging-related mechanism that could be a novel therapeutic strategy in MS. At the cutting-edge development session, we heard about an emerging therapy for relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), an iPad based technology for clinical assessments, and a novel area of study that aims to predict disease progression and treatment response. Finally, as the theme of the forum was “precision medicine approaches for MS,” many talks and presentations were focused on precision medicine which is a model in which healthcare is customized to an individual through decisions, practices, and treatments. Check out all posts on the blog.

MS-Society launches a monthly blog series to highlight the next generation of MS researchers. This month we feature Prenitha Mercy Ignatius Arokia Doss.

The MS Society supports the next generation of MS researchers so that research advances continue and Canada remains a leader in MS research. We have developed a new monthly blog series called Faces Behind the Science to highlight trainees in MS research. Learn more about the inner workings of MS research and get to know the people working behind the scenes to bring us closer to a cure. Subscribe to the blog for more information.

This month we feature Prenitha Mercy Ignatius Arokia Doss, a doctoral student from the Universite Laval. Prenitha’s project is digging into the process that causes the damage in the brain using a mouse model of MS. To learn more about the researcher and her project, visit our blog here.

Behind the research: meet the CanProCo team

The Canadian Prospective Cohort Study to Understand Progression in MS (CanProCo) is a revolutionary project in every sense of the word. Scope. Scale. Significance. It’s a unique study that combines the considerable scientific prowess of top researchers across Canada to focus on one major goal: understanding progression in MS. We caught up with some of the remarkable researchers leading the study to get their thoughts. Check out the interviews with the CanProCo team here.

MS Society to share stories of the invisible symptoms and unseen impact of MS during MS Awareness Month

The theme for the 2019 World MS Day (May 30) is visibility, focusing on the hidden symptoms of MS. The campaign is called #MyInvisibleMS and aims to raise awareness about the unseen symptoms of MS and the impact they have on quality of life. We will align with this theme for the entirety of MS Awareness Month (May) to make a greater splash on social media, put MS in the spotlight, and increase awareness on all levels.

Through the month of May, we’ll use our own approach to storytelling to share narratives associated with invisible symptoms, and challenge common misconceptions to help people understand how they can provide the right support.

Stay tuned on our social media channels for the following:
  • Stories highlighting the various invisible symptoms associated with MS. These will take the form of blog posts, social media posts, myths and truths, MS Walk/Bike stories, WAMS stories and a series called “What I want the world to know about MS”.
  • Facebook live video to share the narratives of people living with MS and engage in Q&A sessions with the audience.
  • Articles in the Globe and Mail which highlight the challenges of living with MS.
  • Video featuring Christine Sinclair who shares her experiences of being affected by MS.
  • Ongoing social media content to continue to raise awareness and share new content.
So check out the MS Society Facebook and Instagram throughout the month of May!
MS Society Funded Researcher

Dr. Catherine Larochelle, Clinical assistant professor, Neurosciences, Université de Montréal

This month we are featuring Dr. Catherine Larochelle, a junior clinician-scientist at the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM). She obtained an MD degree in 2004 and MSc degree in 2005 from Université Laval. She completed her Neurology residency training at Université de Montréal in 2009, before pursuing a Ph.D. degree from 2009-2014 in the laboratory of Dr. Alexandre Prat, working on molecules implicated in the recruitment of pathogenic T cells to the central nervous system in MS and its animal model. Dr. Larochelle then conducted a post-doctoral fellowship at the Universitätmedizin Mainz, Germany, under the supervision of Dr. Frauke Zipp, focusing on interactions between immune cells and central neuroglial cells in vitro and in vivo. Since 2013, Dr. Larochelle has been staff neurologist at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), and since 2016 a clinical assistant professor and a researcher at the CHUM research center (CRCHUM), in the Neurosciences department.

Dr. Larochelle was awarded a grant of over $350,000 to study mechanisms underlying neuroprotection in MS. Pro-inflammatory immune cells are harmful to MS. Recent research has demonstrated that harmful immune cells, entering the brain, can directly cause damage to oligodendrocytes, cells responsible for providing myelin around the neurons. Dr. Catherine Larochelle and her research team plan to demonstrate 1) that the oligodendrocytes have signals that attract the harmful immune cells; 2) that blocking the mechanism of communication and interaction between immune cells and oligodendrocytes will promote repair; and 3) that in an animal model of MS, removing the harmful immune cells results in an improved course of MS-like disease. Overall, the project has the potential to identify molecules that could become treatment targets to limit the damage to the cells of the brain and spinal cord and restore good conditions to accelerate repair and decrease progression in MS. Check out the study page here.

Did you know?

The MS Society has been featuring reserachers in a video series. Recently, we heard from Dr. Gordon Francis who has been performing research for over 35 years. He speaks about the impact and evolution of MS research. To see the full spotlight, visit 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:

Clinical Predictors of Driving Simulator Performance in Persons with Multiple Sclerosis: A Pilot Study

People with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can have visual and cognitive problems that may make driving difficult. For example, blurry or double vision may make it difficult to clearly see other road users, lane markings, traffic lights, or stop signs. Also, difficulty thinking, or poor memory may make it difficult to react or make decisions with this information.

This study will compare clinical visual and cognitive test scores with driving performance on a computer-based simulator in drivers with and without MS. Driving performance will measure the driver’s responses and decisions to certain driving situations in residential and downtown areas along a route. Driving situations may include responding to traffic light changes or deciding to turn or drive straight. For more information and to participate in the study, visit the study page on the MS Research Portal.

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