Guest post by Dr. Jordan Warford, MS Bike ambassador
Multiple sclerosis (MS) research is at an exciting point in time. The landscape has changed so much since I became an MS researcher nine years ago. We’re experiencing explosions of MS research across multiple disciplines, and I know it’s pushing us further than we’ve ever been. We’re not staying within one area of research. We have neurophysiologists who are working with molecular biologists who are consulting with clinicians who are talking to physical therapists and nurses. We’re working more as a health team today than we ever have before, and I think this is the key. The answer is going to come from tackling MS from multiple perspectives, multiple pathways, and really shutting down the disease.
Back in 2009, as I was starting my career, all I wanted to do was dig into a neurodegenerative disorder and get some hands-on experience working with it. The endMS network initiative was just being launched in my region and it was starting to recruit summer students. The summer program was well executed and allowed me to get the experience and exposure that I wanted. What kept me on the research track is how deeply those living with MS are impacted by the disease and how important the work is for them. I needed something tangible to anchor meaning to my work, and the MS community offered that. Having them behind me was encouraging and kept me focused.
My research focus now is about facilitating testing for various types of diseases, but when I was doing primarily MS research for the last eight years, my research looked at ways to restore myelin and function by repositioning drugs that we’ve known about for a long time that haven’t yet been tried in animal models for MS. My recent work focused on an old drug that was used to deliver insulin back in the 1930s and considered its effect on a particular type of molecule that was involved with remyelination. It was a small piece of a much greater puzzle.
As a researcher, there truly are mountain highs and valley lows. There’s nothing more exhilarating than finding something in a lab that no one else in the world has ever discovered. Usually, what we find might be a grain of sand on the beach, but it’s something new that you worked with your colleagues on to generate that new piece of data. You live for those moments. Unfortunately, they are rare. The reality of research is that there are multiple iterations of failure that you must accept to get to those mountain highs. MS researchers are working tirelessly for individuals living with MS. There are lots of late nights to get us the answers we are seeking. When someone living with MS is up late at night dealing with symptoms or pain from their MS, they may take a bit of comfort knowing that we are up with them working on this. We are all working on this together.
When I get a break from the lab, I like to take my bike and hit the Nova Scotia coastline where I have the road, speed, and a view. It resets my perspective and fills my heart with gratitude every time. I always look forward to recharging at MS Bike and walking away with a fresh outlook on why I continue to do research. It’s also a small gesture of thanks for the MS community that have helped shape me into the person I am today. At the event, it’s wonderful to get a panoramic view of our community where you can tangibly see progress and feel the resolve to conquer MS.
When I talk with the community, I can genuinely say we are moving forward at an impressive rate. Researchers world-wide are closing in on mechanisms of repair in MS that will lead to therapies capable of halting the disease long-term and promoting meaningful recovery. It will happen. We will get there. Truth is, I’d walk away from it tomorrow if the work we were doing lacked integrity, didn’t ask big questions, or wasn’t focused on impacting lives. Science fails. Clinical trials fail. What drives me forward is that we are on the same team, and we have come a long way together in a relatively short period of time. Imagine what the next ten years will bring!
Dr. Jordan Warford is an MS Bike ambassador residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has dedicated nearly a decade of his life to MS research and continues to be a hero for the MS community. Join him by registering to MS Bike today: www.msbike.ca