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Research in Action

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

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Research Profile


Sarah Flohr
Born in Germany and raised in the BC interior, Sarah Flohr has a unique experience of living with MS. Sarah first encountered the disease 20 years ago when her mother was diagnosed with primary progress MS (PPMS). Having seen the devastating effects the disease can have on an individual, Sarah found it challenging to accept her own diagnosis of MS 4 years ago. However, she decided that the only way to get through her journey was to stay positive. Now living in Charlottetown, PEI, Sarah works in the financial industry and is an active volunteer with MS Society for various events and initiatives.

In 2017, Sarah participated in the Annual Grant Review where she got the opportunity to review research projects and provide her feedback. She got the opportunity to speak on behalf of someone who has MS as well as a caregiver of someone with MS. “I was able to learn so much about the different research that is happening with MS,” Sarah recalls her experience. “I enjoyed reviewing these research initiatives and being able to provide my insight into how this may impact individuals directly affected by MS.”

Sarah understands the importance of research and the changes it brings for people affected by MS. “Research is important because it provides answers”, she says. When asked what she hopes research will provide for people with MS, she responds, “Ultimately, I hope that through research we are able to find a cure for MS. Having been privy to examining the research applications, I know that there are extremely talented, educated, passionate and skilled researchers working towards this goal and for that I am extremely grateful.”

Sarah will be joining us again as a community representative for the 2018 Annual Grant Review.

Research Events and Funding Opportunities

European Charcot Foundation hosts 25th Annual Meeting in Italy

From Thursday November 30 — Saturday December 2, the European Charcot Foundation will host their 25th Annual Meeting in Baveno, Italy. Themed “25 Years of Fundamental Milestones in MS”, the conference promises interesting debates amongst researchers and clinicians, and will provide an interactive learning experience on topics ranging from causes of the disease to translating science into patient management. For more information visit the Annual Meeting website.

MS researchers and clinicians gear up for scientific conference

Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) will welcome researchers, clinicians, and trainees from around the world to San Diego, California for ACTRIMS FORUM 2018. The scientific conference will take place February 1-3, and will feature presentations from leading MS experts on topics including new therapeutic targets, underlying mechanisms of disease, neuroinflammation, and MS clinical trials. For more information on this forum meeting, visit the ACTRIMS FORUM 2018 website.



Research Spotlight

Check out the latest blog that looks at research on supplements in MS


Many individuals turn to complementary and alternative medications (CAMs) to take control of their MS. CAMs are approaches that come from a variety of traditions and practices, including exercise, natural health products, supplements and vitamins. In addition to helping in the management of MS, CAMs are used by Canadians to enhance their overall wellness. The latest post on Dr. Karen Lee’s research blog looks at the research behind three supplements that have recently gained a fair bit of traction: vitamin D, Biotin, and lipoic acid. Read about these supplements here.

MS Society funded study explores the effects of cannabis on cognition in men and women with MS

With 20% of individuals with MS using cannabis (also known as marijuana) to help them manage symptoms such as pain, researchers have set out to discover if the extensive use of cannabis has adverse effects. A paper published in Multiple Sclerosis Journal-Experimental, Translation, Clinical , and co-authored by MS Society funded researcher and neuropsychiatrist Dr. Anthony Feinstein from the University of Toronto, evaluates if there is an interaction between gender and cannabis in terms of cognitive impairment for individuals living with MS. Check out what the team discovers here.

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

MS Society Funded Research


Dr. V Wee Yong
This month we are featuring a project led by Dr. V. Wee Yong, a professor at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and Clinical Neurosciences and Oncology departments at The University of Calgary. In addition to being one of the leading researchers in MS, Dr. Yong is the Director of the Alberta MS Network and was previously the chair of the Medical Advisory Committee for the MS Society. Dr. Yong has published over 250 papers and has seen his work translated into phase III clinical trials. Most recently, his early findings which demonstrated that minocycline, an antibiotic commonly used to treat acne, had anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. This finding eventually led to a phase III clinical trial to show a reduction in the risk of developing MS in individuals with early signs of MS with minocycline treatment. Dr. Yong’s research interests lie in areas of neuroprotection, regeneration and neuroimmunology in MS.

Dr. Yong was awarded over $400,000 in the 2016-2017 Annual Competition to carry out a project on physical activity as a mode to promote remyelination in MS (For more information on remyelination, check out our “Did you know?” section below). By previously receiving funding from the MS Society, the team discovered that mice that were given access to a running wheel after MS-like disease regenerate cells (oligodendrocytes) that promote remyelination compared to mice that had no physical activity. Currently, Dr. Yong and his team are trying to figure how physical exercise promotes this repair process. In addition to understanding the mechanisms that underlie this process, the research will also look at different parameters of exercise such as duration, intensity and type of exercise that will maximally promote remyelination. The ultimate goal of this research is to provide individuals with MS a better understanding of how physical activity may affect their progression of MS.

Did You Know?

Remyelination is a process of tissue repair. Myelin, made by cells called oligodendrocytes, is the protective covering over nerve fibers that speeds up the transfer of signals from the brain to the body. In MS, myelin is vulnerable to attack from the immune system. Effective and timely repair of myelin is critical to prevent further damage to the tissue. Remyelination is a complex and time sensitive process. Once a window of opportunity for myelin repair has passed, the ability for the nervous system to undergo repair decreases significantly— thus it is important to know exactly when and how repair can take place. Work such as Dr. V Wee Yong study above continues to look at the potential of remyelinaiton in preventing progression and improving physical recovery in 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:

  • Accessing Healthcare Services for Managing Multiple Sclerosis: Perspectives from Canadians with MS and Healthcare Providers.. People with MS will often seek help from healthcare providers to deal with their disease management issues; these providers also can find MS difficult to manage. Canadians with MS use more healthcare services than individuals with other chronic conditions. Even though they use more services, people with MS still report poor health and multiple unmet healthcare needs. Appropriate management and care of MS is key to living healthier and higher quality of lives. In order to receive appropriate management and care persons with MS must be able to access healthcare services. This study therefore aims to investigate access to healthcare, in the Canadian context, from the perspective of persons with MS and healthcare providers caring for them.

    This study is looking for individuals who self-report a diagnosis of MS from a neurologist and who are: at least 18 years of age; able to tolerate a 90-minute discussion; able to communicate in English, and able and willing to attend one focus group and arrange their own means of transportation. For more information please visit the study page on the MS Research Portal.

In Other MS News...

Interested in a research topic or event that was not covered? Submit your feedback to msresearchgrants@mssociety.ca.

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