Women are three times more likely to develop MS than men — but lucky for us, Canada is also leading the charge in groundbreaking MS research, and a large number of the researchers doing this work are women. Today on International Women’s Day, we are honouring those women on #TeamFight who are working diligently to find answers for everyone who lives with MS.
International Women’s Day is a day for celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women, and empowering those women through appreciation for their contributions to the world. It is also a day to bring awareness to the work that still needs to be done in achieving real gender parity in Canada and in parts of the world where there are far bigger strides to be made.
So today we are celebrating those women who are fighting for everyone affected by MS. Thank you for all that you do — we couldn’t end MS without you!
Dr. Helen Tremlett
New research published this week in Journal of the Neurological Sciences shows that a reduced amount of particular bacteria in the gut is associated with relapse risk in pediatric MS. The pilot study, led by Dr. Helen Tremlett (The University of British Columbia) and Dr. Emmanuelle Waubant (University of California, San Francisco), may offer potential to decrease relapse risk in some people living with MS.
Researchers analyzed stool samples from 17 children who had recently been diagnosed with MS, and evaluated their relapse risk over 20 months to see whether microbes – or an imbalance of them – played a role in the person’s risk of relapse. They found that a depletion in a group of bacteria involved in digestion – called Fusobacteria – was associated with more than three times the risk of an earlier relapse during the 20-month period.
Dr. Tremlett is continuing this work as part of an ongoing collaboration with the Canadian Pediatric Demyelinating Disease study led by Dr. Brenda Banwell (The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto). Funded by the MS Society of Canada and MS Scientific Research Foundation, the collaboration will gather clues about how the bacteria in the gut can influence the development of MS during the earliest stages of the disease.
Dr. Shannon Dunn’s relationship with multiple sclerosis began as a personal one – her mother lived with a severe form of relapsing-remitting MS.
“I witnessed my mom’s journey with MS since I was two years old. She was very sick, and my family visited her in the hospital every day.”
Now an established MS researcher at Toronto General Research Institute, Dr. Dunn joins a growing chorus of researchers who are exploring the question of why women are more likely to develop MS than men. Her current research follows on the heels of a serendipitous discovery that immune cells in female mice initiate autoimmune disease more readily than male immune cells. With funding from the MS Society, Dr. Dunn is translating these findings to MS by investigating how autoimmune mechanisms differ between women and men with the potential to explain why women are more prone to develop MS.
Dr. Dalia Rotstein
MS Society Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient Dr. Rotstein first learned about MS when her grade seven class participated in the MS Read-A-Thon program.
“During my first year of neurology residency, a travel grant from the MS Society allowed me to attend the first Canadian endMS Conference, which got me excited and motivated me to pursue a career in MS. Most recently, the MS Society funded my fellowship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and my studies at Harvard towards a Master’s in Public Health. These two years expanded my clinical skills in MS, solidified my research interests in MS epidemiology, and allowed me to develop the statistical knowledge and tools necessary to conduct high-quality research.”
Dr. Rotstein’s latest work looks at who would respond to specific treatments based on MRI and clinical measures. Given the wide selection of available therapies for relapsing-remitting MS, her aim is to identify the reasons a person may switch treatments. She has also looked at the link between diet and vitamin D and risk of MS.
On June 13, 1883, Dr. Emily Stowe (1831-1903) opened Canada’s first medical college for women, now known as Women’s College Hospital. As the first Canadian woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada, Dr. Stowe played a key role in establishing the women’s suffrage movement in this country. She rallied Canadians to fight for a medical college for women, because she believed that “medical education for women is a recognized necessity, and consequently facilities for such instruction should be provided.”
We couldn’t be more grateful for the work of women like Dr. Emily Stowe, who made it possible for women to be active players in the field of research.
To all the women who are fighting MS, whether in life or in the lab: Happy International Women’s Day!