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Research in Action

September 2017
Latest research news and updates from the MS Society of Canada

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Research Profile

Chuck Hartlen
An engineer by profession, Chuck Hartlen has held several executive positions in various technology firms. He earned his Bachelors of Engineering as well as his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Dalhousie University. Although Chuck has gained much success in his professional career, he has always been a strong believer of giving back to the community. He currently serves as a member on the Board of Directors for the MS Society of Canada. However, his first role with the organization began in 2012 when he served as a Community Representative for the Annual Research Competition review. The Atlantic Canada native recalls how he felt when he was selected for the role. “My first reaction was that I was absolutely honoured to have been selected,” says Chuck. “My second reaction was that I was a bit overwhelmed, even a little intimated at first with all of the medical language and being around researchers and clinicians.” However, intimidation soon changed to fascination when the review process began and Chuck witnessed firsthand not only the commitment and hard work, but also the creativity of the talented researchers and clinicians that went into reviewing the grants. Seeing the incredible proposals coming in gave Chuck even more hope that we are getting closer to an answer.

Having served as a Community Representative, Chuck knows the importance of involving those affected by MS in the MS Society’s decision-making processes. Not only do they share their perspective, but these individuals get out to their communities and inform others of how decisions are made. “In addition to bringing that community perspective, it also brings together a network of ambassadors that get to see something that the average person does not get to see.”

While on the Board of Directors, Chuck is involved in decision making around MS Society policies and the oversight of financial and governmental matters, among other responsibilities. However, his heart remains with innovation and research. “Research, firstly, gives hope. Second, it’s going to help us end MS,” says Chuck. “There are a lot of things we do as a Society, but there’s only one thing that is going to end MS and that is research.”

Research Events and Funding Opportunities

2017 ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Joint Meeting

The 7th joint European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ECTRIMS) - Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ACTRIMS) meeting will be taking place on October 25-28 in Paris, France. 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.

Leading MS experts to present at 2017 MS Connect Conference in Toronto

The MS Society’s Ontario and Nunavut Division is pleased to announce that registration for the 2017 MS Connect Conference: Bringing the MS Community Together is now open. The event will take place on October 21 at the Holiday Inn Yorkdale in Toronto. The conference is open to people with MS, their caregivers and the larger MS community, and will include presentations from leading MS experts Dr. Mark Freedman, Dr. Tania Bruno, and Dr. Dale Robinson. For more information visit the MS Society's website.

Research Spotlight

MS Society funded postdoctoral fellow uncovers genetic make-up of immune cells implicated in MS

Credits: “Mouse Brain, confocal microscopy” by Zeiss Microscopy/CC BY 2.0
Microglia are cells of the immune system that are found in the central nervous system, but have recently been under debate about whether they are good or bad in MS. A study, led by MS Society-funded postdoctoral fellow Dr. David Gosselin, was published in the well-renowned journal Science. His team showed that certain genes associated with neurodegenerative disorders are present in higher quantities in microglia compared to other cells in the brain, and that 42 of the genes that are linked to MS are also found in microglia. These results improve our understanding of the genetic make-up of the cells, and provide a window into MS and other neurological diseases.

Study shows that treatment with an anti-oxidant slows brain tissue loss

A small study led by Dr. Rebecca Spain and her research team from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, shows that treatment with lipoic acid (an over-the-counter antioxidant supplement) can reduce the rate of brain loss by 68% in people with secondary progressive MS compared to those on placebo. This study was recently published in Neuroimmunology and Neuroinflammation. To read more about this study and other research, visit the Latest MS Research News on the MS Society website.

MS Society Funded Research

This month we are excited to feature a project led by Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie, a Professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. In addition to being a well-renowned researcher in MS, Dr. Marrie serves as the Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic and is the Chair of the MS Society’s Medical Advisory Committee. A neurologist and epidemiologist, Dr. Marrie studies the impact of co-existing conditions that may arise in people with MS, such as heart disease, infection, and cancer.

Dr. Marrie was awarded nearly $300,000 in the 2016-2017 Annual Competition to carry out a project that compares risk factors, treatments and outcomes for heart attack among people with and without MS. Her interest in this area is driven by the fact that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in people living with MS, and people with MS are less likely to undergo procedures to treat heart disease. Using health claims data obtained from British Columbia and Manitoba, her preliminary findings suggest that individuals with MS are at a higher risk of having a heart attack. These and future findings will provide important information for people with MS and their health care team about prognosis after having a heart attack, and appropriate treatment measures that should be considered.

Did You Know?

Comobidities are adiditional conditions that occur with a primary disease. This can include depression and anxiety, sleep disorders, heardt disorders, etc. In recent years, there has been an increase in the prevalence of comorbidities in the MS population. Some of the most common comorbidities among people with MS are depression, anxiety, hypertension, elevated levels of lipids (or high cholesterol), and lung disease. The presence of comorbidities with MS is an area of great interest for clinicians given the impact that these comobidies may have on disease progression. The MS Society supports projects in this area, including the one highlighted above.

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:

  • The Effect of 3D Multiple Object Tracking Training in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis. Cognitive impairments (e.g. attention and memory deficits) occur in about 45-60% of persons with multiple sclerosis and negatively impact activities of daily life, such as driving, working, and social activities. There are few rehabilitation strategies available and many cognitive rehabilitation programs are time consuming, difficult to administer and have not been linked to activities of daily life. Computerized three-dimensional multiple object tracking (3DMOT) is a novel technology designed to improve attention and processing speed, which are the functions most impaired in people with MS. The purpose of this study is to examine whether 3DMOT training can improve cognitive function in people with MS compared to people without MS. The study is looking for persons aged 18-60 with a diagnosis of relapse-remitting MS with documented cognitive impairment and healthy controls between 45-65. For more information please visit the study page on the MS Research Portal.

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