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Research in Action

November 2016
Latest research news and updates from the MS Society of Canada

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Research Profile

Researcher and wellness champion, Dr. Charity Evans

Dr. Charity Evans
A pharmacist by trade, Dr. Charity Evans considers herself a relative “newcomer” to the MS field, but since getting involved in MS research under the guidance of Dr. Helen Tremlett at the University of British Columbia, she never looked back. Immediately after beginning her Postdoctoral Fellowship with Dr. Tremlett, Dr. Evans attended one of the MS Society’s research training workshops for young investigators, called endMS Summer School, where she was first introduced to MS. “The rapid rate at which things are changing in the field is a positive indicator of how research continues to advance towards finding a cause and eventual cure for MS,” says Dr. Evans.

Currently an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Evans was recently awarded one of three Hermès Canada | MS Society Wellness Research Innovation Grants. Funding from the grant will enable Dr. Evans to explore the benefits and safety of a 12-week Pilates program for people living with MS. She will be leading this work with co-investigator Jana Danielson, owner of and instructor at Lead Pilates and Lead Integrated Health Therapies. “This study is a true partnership between academic researchers and community members,” says Dr. Evans. “Because it is being conducted in the community, the results of the study can be directly translated to the people who will most benefit.” While Dr. Evans understands the importance of medications to treat MS, this new work highlight non-medicinal approaches to improving quality of life. “Although we have several drug therapies available for the treatment of MS, they are not appropriate or effective for all individuals,” says Dr. Evans. “Strategies that focus on individual wellness, such as diet and exercise, are other important tools available for helping to manage the disease.”

Research Events and Funding Opportunities

European Charcot Foundation hosts 24th Annual Meeting in Italy

From Thursday November 24 — Saturday November 26, the European Charcot Foundation will host their 24th Annual Meeting in Baveno, Italy. Themed “Multiple Sclerosis Treatment in Practice”, the conference promises interesting debates amongst researchers and clinicians, and will provide an interactive learning experience on topics ranging from individualized treatment to MS in women and children. For more information visit the Annual Meeting website.

Discuss Day to Day Wellness Strategies for MS

The MS Society’s Toronto Chapter is hosting an educational event for people living with MS that will focus on day to day strategies for living well with MS. It will take place on Thursday November 24 at 7:00-9:00pm at Elgin West community Centre in Richmond Hill. Attendees will hear from Kathleen Carr, Multiple Sclerosis Nurse (MSCN), MS program, and clinic and research nurse at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Kathleen will speak about day to day strategies for living well with MS, with a focus on diet, vitamin D, and quality of life issues. Registration is required. Visit the MS Society website for more details.

Looking for Participants for Research Discussions in Toronto

The MS Society of Canada is looking for energetic young people in the MS community who want to play a meaningful role in research and have their voice heard about how research impacts them. On Tuesday December 6, 2016, people affected by MS will engage with 100 junior MS researchers and participate in roundtable discussions and activities. The event is called HEAR MS Day, which stands for Hope and Engagement through Accelerating Research in MS (Presented by Biogen). For more information and to register, please contact Angelica Asis (Manager, Research Information and Partnerships) at

Research Spotlight

Ottawa study highlights protective effect of physical activity in the central nervous system

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
A study led by researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute has uncovered promising findings demonstrating that physical activity, particularly running, can slow neurodegeneration and promote repair in the brain. In their study published in Cell Reports, Dr. Matías Alvarez-Saavedra and his team genetically altered mice to exhibit signs of nerve cell death, impaired mobility, and shortened survival. When they provided the mice access to a running wheel, those mice that ran showed higher numbers of myelin-producing cells (indicating repair), prolonged survival, and reduced motor deficits, compared to mice that didn’t run. They also identified a protein called VGF, which appears to have an important role in this process. This work has enormous implications for people affected by MS, and the MS Society of Canada is funding the next phase of this research.

To read more about this study and other groundbreaking research, visit the Latest MS Research News on the MS Society website.

Did You Know?

The MS Society is currently supporting two “translational research” studies? Translational research refers to a series of experiments that take an idea from bench to bedside. It tests a potential treatment to ensure that is safe, tolerable in the body, and is targeting the right protein or pathway that is causing disease. By investing in this area the MS Society hopes to accelerate research and deliver treatments to people living with MS as soon as possible. To read more, visit the MS Research Portal page.

Research Online

Last week the MS Society and MS Scientific Research Foundation announced the successful recipients of the Hermès Canada | MS Society Wellness Research Innovation Grant (WRIG). Each research team will receive $40,000 to enable them to study wellness interventions for MS. Some researchers have teamed up with people in the community who have direct experience with wellness-based programs. For example, Dr. Charity Evans, who is featured above, is working with Pilates coach Jana Danielson and her husband Jason to study the impact of Pilates in MS. The other two projects will focus on the development of a physical activity mobile application (app) for youth, and an accessible web-based physiotherapy program for people with MS with moderate to severe disability

On her blog, Dr. Karen Lee will feature each of the WRIG recipients; what motivates them, what they hope will be gained from their research, and how collaboration with wellness experts and people affected by MS will improve the translation of their research into useful applications for the MS community. Dr. Lee also caught up with a group of students from the University of Waterloo who received $15,000 from the MS Society to develop an MS symptom-monitoring wearable device that has the potential to enhance individualized care for people with MS.

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:

  • South Asian immigrants raised in Western environments, including Canada, have a significant, yet unexplained increase in the risk of developing a chronic inflammatory disease. Researchers at the University of Toronto are investigating the effect of migration on chronic inflammatory diseases, including MS, in South Asian Canadian communities. Participants will be interviewed and asked to share their thoughts and opinions on chronic inflammatory diseases and access to health care services. For more information, visit the study page on the MS Research Portal.
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