Through the generous support of the MS community, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada has invested over $200 million in research since inception in 1948. While much progress has been made over this period, each year the Society continues to invest in the most promising research that has the greatest potential benefit to individuals living with MS.
This year, the Society announced over $4 million dollars in funding for 14 new research studies from the annual research competition (link). We share highlights about some of the newest research that aims to improve treatment and care and understand & halt disease progression.
To improve treatment and care for people with MS – new research aims to develop more accurate methods to better predict how and when an individual’s MS may worsen, gain a better understanding of other health conditions that can co-exist with MS such as heart disease, and to further research on treatments that support people at the earliest signs of MS and better manage symptoms, like chronic pain. Specific projects led by Canadian researchers are listed below.
- Dr. Helen Tremlett at the University of British Columbia is investigating the existence of a symptomatic ‘prodromal period’ – a period before MS is diagnosed that can occur months or years before MS symptoms are recognized where ‘pre-MS traits’ can be identified. This work aims to better understand the risk factors leading to the development of MS in addition to the earliest signs of MS – link
- Dr. Yunyan Zhang at the University of Calgary aims to establish a new more accurate method of predicting the 5-year risk of disability worsening scores in people with relapsing-remitting MS using a type of artificial intelligence called ‘deep learning.’ More accurate predications about an individual’s risk of disease worsening can assist healthcare providers and patients in making treatment decisions in order to prevent and better manage the onset of advanced disease – link.
- Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in people with MS. Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie at the University of Manitoba will conduct a pilot study to understand whether people with MS are at greater risk of developing subclinical atherosclerosis, a condition in which the arteries become narrowed due to the build-up of plaque and can lead to heart disease and stroke. This study will help guide future efforts to prevent, screen and treat heart disease in people with MS – link.
- Dr. Luanne Metz at the University of Calgary is seeking evidence for use of minocycline, a safe and inexpensive medication to bridge the treatment gap from first MS symptom onset and diagnosis to long-term treatment. This follow-on confirmation study aims to provide needed evidence for use of minocycline as a standard of care.
- Dr. Bradley Kerr at the University of Alberta aims to better understand the underlying causes of chronic neuropathic pain. Dr. Kerr and team will examine a novel pathway and factors to gain insights into the mechanisms and causes of neuropathic pain in MS. These insights aim to lead toward the development of more effective treatments for MS – link.
We know that in people with MS, the immune system inappropriately attacks myelin, the protective coating surrounding nerve fibres, causing inflammation and damage. While the body possesses the capacity to repair myelin, people with MS can accumulate extensive amounts of myelin and nerve damage that can lead to the development of significant disability. To understand & halt disease progression – research is taking various strategies and approaches that may be needed to enhance and protect nerve fibres (neurons or nerve cells) in people with MS.
- Dr. Soheila Karimi at the University of Manitoba is investigating the growth factor, Neuregulin (Nrg-1), normally found in the body is known to be important for the formation and maintenance of myelin. This work aims to understand its role and potential as a regenerative therapy for MS in order to slow down disease progression – link.
- Dr. David Gosselin at the University of Laval is studying a factor (Ppar-delta) to understand how it might regulate a specialized cell called ‘microglial’ cells which helps to regulate the elimination of myelin debris, a necessary step for myelin repair. Dr. Gosselin and team is seeking to identify potential drugs that enhance myelin clearance as a new therapeutic option – link.
- Dr. Alyson Fournier at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University is investigating a family of molecules called microRNAs that are powerful regulators of cell growth and viability. Some microRNAs have been shown to protect nerve cells from the harmful effects of inflammation. Her research aims to understand and identify microRNAs that can protect and repair neurons in the context of MS, as a potential therapeutic – link.
We greatly appreciate the dedication and commitment of the researchers and their teams to continue this important work in MS. We look forward to the outcomes of the research funded this year and will keep you updated on new research findings through our regular updates (link).