Monthly Archives: March 2015

Research Decoder: Remyelination versus Neuroprotection

hTwo words that I often see used interchangeably are remyelination and neuroprotection. Both processes are part of the body’s innate repair and damage prevention system, and they are critical tools for restoring function and integrity to damaged nerve cells and their protective coating in people with multiple sclerosis. However, remyelination and neuroprotection are distinct processes that lend themselves to different therapeutic approaches, and so knowing the difference between these terms is important in order to best capitalize on the diversity of molecular and cellular targets at our disposal for fighting MS.

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Research Decoder: Negative Results

hIn scientific research, negative results can get a bad rap. What exactly do I mean when I say “negative results”? At its core, scientific research is the process of developing a research question, formulating a hypothesis (an educated prediction) about the outcome of that question, then testing the hypothesis through a system of measurement and observation.

For example, a scientist may want to know whether drinking alcohol in the evening leads to louder snoring during sleep that night. In other words, she is proposing a possible relationship between two variables: the independent variable (what the researcher changes, i.e. alcohol consumption in the evening) and the dependent variable (what the researcher will measure, i.e. volume of snoring during the following night).

In reality, what the scientist is really testing is the null hypothesis, which states that there is no relationship between the two variables; or, in this case, alcohol does not lead to louder snoring. Let’s suppose that after performing a well-designed study with proper statistical analysis in a group of subjects, the scientist finds that subjects who drank alcohol snored at a statistically higher volume than those who didn’t drink alcohol. She can then reject the null hypothesis and conclude that drinking alcohol in the evening leads to louder snoring that night. If there is no significant difference between the two groups, then the observed snoring is likely unrelated to drinking alcohol. The scientist would regard this as a negative result.

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Action to end MS: Part II

Developing effective therapies for progressive multiple sclerosis, a debilitating form of MS that has eluded successful treatment breakthroughs, represents one of the greatest needs for people living with MS.

In Part II of the Action to endMS video series: Answers in progressive MS, Jonathan Allenger – who lives with MS – and I talk about the concerted push by the MS Society and its international partners to find answers and develop solutions to end progressive MS.

 

 

The International Progressive MS Alliance scientific meeting: Connecting to end Progressive MS

Last week, I set out for the historic city of Boston to attend the second scientific meeting of the International Progressive Multiple Sclerosis Alliance (PMSA). Established in 2012 by six founding members –the MS Society of Canada among them – the PMSA connects resources and experts from around the world to better understand and accelerate the development of treatments for progressive MS.

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Attendees of the second PMSA Scientific Meeting, including researchers, representatives of member MS Societies and the MS International Federation, and people living with MS

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Action to end MS: Part I

Two questions I often hear from people living with multiple sclerosis are “Why does research take so long ?” and “How close are we to finding effective treatments for progressive MS?” These two questions are reflected in the MS Society’s top priorities in research – acceleration of the pace of research and research in progressive MS – and shape the roadmap that guides the MS Society’s strategic plan.

In this installment of a video series that follows up on the launch of the MS Society’s Strategic Plan 2014-2018, Action to end MS, I provide some perspective on how the MS Society is moving forward with initiatives to address these research priorities and bring us closer to finding a cure for MS.

We also hear from Jonathan Allenger, a father who was recently diagnosed with MS shortly before the birth of his son, who shares his story about how MS affects his life and what MS research means to him. To Jonathan, the unrelenting push for advances in MS research sustains his hope that he will be able to play ball with his son and watch him grow up, free from any limitations that might be brought on by the disease.

In Part 1: Acceleration of MS research, we discuss how the MS Society is bringing important research breakthroughs in MS from the bench to the bedside where they have the greatest impact for people living with MS, and why it is so important that we do so.

 

 

Stay tuned for part two when I look further into the steps we at the MS Society of Canada are taking to find answers for progressive MS.

Research Decoder: Risk Factors

hAlthough there is no single cause for multiple sclerosis, one priority in research is to identify different risk factors associated with MS. A risk factor is anything that can affect your chances of getting a disease like MS. Some risk factors, like your age, sex, or family history, cannot be changed, and are referred to as non-modifiable risk factors. Others, such as lifestyle and environmental influences, are avoidable and are termed modifiable risk factors, although in some cases changing these factors is easier said than done.

Having one or more risk factors for a disease does not necessarily guarantee that you will develop that disease, but it can increase your chances. On the other hand, some people can have all of the risk factors for a disease and remain disease-free. Take smoking, for example. Although smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, some people can smoke their entire lives without getting lung cancer. Information about risk factors comes from the study of large groups of people, and various risk factors can interact in complex ways; for that reason, making definitive conclusions about how risk factors can lead to disease in each individual person can be tricky. At the end of the day, however, the best way to minimize your chances of developing MS is to manage the risk factors that you can control.

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