Monthly Archives: November 2014

Latest issue of MS Research now online

novembercoverI am happy to announce that the newest issue of MS Research is now available online. MS Research provides donors who fund research with engaging news and stories about research in multiple sclerosis. Through MS Research, donors with a vested interest in research gain insight into the process, personalities and progress of MS research happening today. MS Research also provides the general public with the latest news and events in research and treatment that is happening around the world, thanks to generous contributions from those who are passionate about our cause.

In this issue, we highlight some exciting first steps the MS Society of Canada has taken to accelerate the pace of research in MS through our collaboration with the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD). This pivotal connection lays the groundwork for translating research breakthroughs into treatment strategies for people with MS with a bench-to-bedside approach. We also explore the next frontier in progressive MS research with an introduction to remyelination – the process by which the damaged insulation around nerve fibres is repaired – with an emphasis on innovative, MS Society-funded research in this emerging field. Finally, we profile a rising star in MS research, Dr. Craig Moore from Memorial University, who leveraged his experience in the endMS Research and Training Network to build collaborations with world leaders in research into the role of B cells in MS.

To read more about our stories, check out the full issue of MS Research now!

Shining a light on the role of vitamin D in healthy living, disease prevention, and multiple sclerosis

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(Photo Credit: smlions12 / Flickr)

Vitamin D has been a topic of active discussion for decades, and as research continues to uncover the full range of health benefits associated with high levels of vitamin D, bringing awareness to the importance of the sunshine vitamin in disease prevention and everyday health becomes increasingly important.

To mark Vitamin D Awareness Month, the Vitamin D Society has been working hard to spread the word about the implications of vitamin D deficiency and how proper vitamin D levels can dramatically impact our health and quality of life.

Part of their efforts involved hosting a forum for researchers, health care professionals and non-profit organizations to come together and discuss the latest evidence on vitamin D in order to develop a consensus that can be used to educate Canadians on the importance of vitamin D levels for good health. I was fortunate to be at the meeting, which came shortly after World Vitamin D Day on November 2.

The truth is, Canadians simply cannot get sufficient levels of vitamin D from sunshine, due to our geographical location and long winters. Research has repeatedly shown that low levels of vitamin D puts us at a higher risk not only for bone weakness and injury, but also for serious conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, infection, cognitive impairment, and multiple sclerosis.

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“Rewiring” neurons: how the brain copes with MS

Sophie was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS almost 20 years ago. With every relapse, or flare-up of her symptoms, Sophie noticed that she struggled to concentrate on simple tasks and remember new information, such as the name of someone she had just met. It wasn’t just her cognitive ability that took a hit; during one episode, Sophie nearly lost her ability to walk, and it would be many weeks before she began to recover and walk normally again. Over the past several years, Sophie has been receiving inpatient therapy at a neurorehabilitation clinic in the wake of each relapse, and since starting her therapy she has been able to bounce back more quickly after the onset of symptoms. To help with her cognitive difficulties, Sophie’s therapy involves memorization and problem-solving exercises that stimulate her mind and improve her ability to focus her attention and memorize details more effectively. When Sophie temporarily lost her ability to walk, she was put through an intensive physical therapy regimen that helped to restore her sense of balance and coordination in addition to strengthening her leg muscles.

Sophie’s situation is certainly not unique among people with MS, and in addition to disease-modifying drugs, rehabilitation plays a significant role in overall disease management. Furthermore, people with relapsing-remitting MS may experience periods of time between relapses with no apparent symptoms, despite evidence of nerve tissue damage on a radiological scan. This raises the question: how is the brain adapting to damage caused by MS in order to maintain its ability to function properly?

Neuroplasticity

Part of the answer to this question lies in the phenomenon of neural plasticity, or neuroplasticity, which can be defined as the functional reorganization of pathways in the brain based on new experiences, such as changes in behaviour, the environment, or those brought about by injury. The brain is a staggeringly complex organ, with an estimated 86 billion neurons, or nerve cells, comprising an intricate web of both functionally distinct and overlapping circuits. A remarkable feature of the brain is its ability to “rewire” itself; that is, the capacity to create new connections between neurons or to rearrange existing ones to adapt to a range of new circumstances.

brain-wiring (photo credit: Brewbooks / Flickr)

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