A comorbidity is a chronic medical condition that occurs alongside an existing one. For example, someone diagnosed with both multiple sclerosis and hypertension would be said to have two comorbid conditions. Comorbidities are of paramount concern to clinicians and other care providers, since they can often interact with MS in unpredictable ways, in turn complicating the course or treatment of MS, impacting quality of life and influencing disease progression. A proper understanding of the types and frequencies of comorbidities among people living with MS is a crucial step in figuring out the optimal treatment and management plan that suits each individual. Comprehensive and accurate information on the population patterns of comorbidities is also indispensable for designing proper research studies in order to account for any complicating factors that could end up skewing the results.
Today is World MS Day, a day for people around the world to take action, share stories, raise awareness and campaign with and for everyone affected by multiple sclerosis. Although Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world, MS transcends international borders and impacts the lives of people around the globe. Conceived of in 2009 by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation and growing in strength and reach every year, World MS Day is an opportunity to give the 2.3 million people living with MS a unified voice to tell the world what it means to have MS and what are some ways in which we’re fighting the disease.
MS Research Town Hall is happening this World MS Day – May 27. There is no better day to raise awareness of MS and the important advances that have taken place in research than on World MS Day. MS Research Town Hall is an event that is designed to engage the public in a discussion about MS research and hear the latest updates from the world’s leading scientists and health professionals. One of these experts is Dr. Helen Genova, who conducts research at Kessler Foundation in New Jersey. Dr. Genova is particularly interested in how MS affects a person’s ability to process thoughts, interact with family and friends, and perform common mental tasks. Researchers have a good idea of how MS affects the body, but less is known about how it affects the mind, and Dr. Genova has set out to provide answers that can help people with MS live the best quality of life possible. I had a chance to speak to Dr. Genova to get to know her and her research a bit better.
MS Research Town Hall is only 6 days away, and as the event draws near, I am getting more and more excited to hear from the experts we have invited to take part and share the latest updates in MS research. I recently posted a brief interview I did with Dr. Mark Freedman, who will be discussing the challenges with treating progressive MS and new research in stem cells at the telephone town hall. Today I bring to you my interview with neurologist, scientist and university professor Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Dr. Marrie’s research into population patterns of MS, risk factors and the presence and treatment of other co-existing conditions such as heart disease, cancer and depression is critical to inform practices that will more effectively treat people who live with MS and improve their quality of life.
Dr. Marrie brings a wealth of experience and wisdom to the table, and I look forward to hearing her discuss the most recent advances in the field of MS. Read further to check out her interview responses.
This World MS Day (May 27), we invite you to take part in the MS Society of Canada’s MS Research Town Hall (formerly known as the MS Research Webinar). This live-streamed event, taking place at 7:30pm Eastern, will feature prominent MS researchers Dr. Mark Freedman from Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Dr. Helen Genova from Kessler Foundation and Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie from the University of Manitoba. They will each discuss progress in research in multiple sclerosis with special guest host CBC Radio’s Bob McDonald from Quirks and Quarks. You will have an opportunity to ask questions directly to the researchers and be the first to hear the latest updates in areas such as progressive MS, stem cells, risk factors, and cognition.
I recently sat down with Dr. Freedman to chat about what he is up to in his research and get a sample of what he will be talking about during the telephone town hall.
In the last installment, I discussed some of the exciting research featured at the Neuroinflammation Symposium that really highlights the breadth and diversity of expertise in the field of MS, both here in Canada and abroad. The trainees in particular were a true source of pride and inspiration, and the quality of their work is emblematic of the importance of cultivating talent and collaboration in the field by attracting and retaining the brightest minds and providing a forum for sharing ideas.
During this year’s research poster presentations, three trainees were selected from the pool of excellent candidates by a panel of judges for having the most meritorious research posters. These winners were:
- Kirsten Fiest (University of Manitoba)
- Dessalegn Melesse (University of Manitoba)
- Linda Fei Zhao (University of Toronto)
In this post, I will be profiling Ms. Linda Fei Zhao, doctoral student in Dr. Shannon Dunn’s laboratory at the University of Toronto and MS Society-funded trainee. Ms. Zhao’s research focus is on identifying novel drug targets for the purposes of influencing the development of harmful immune cells and deterring autoimmunity, a critical component of the MS disease process. I had a chance to catch up with Ms. Zhao and chat a little bit about her research and its impact for people living with MS, as well as how her experiences at the Neuroinflammation Symposium have influenced her research career.
Multiple sclerosis has classically been considered a disease of the white matter. What does this mean, exactly?
The brain and spinal cord (which together make up the central nervous system, or CNS) can be roughly categorized into two kinds of nervous tissue: white matter and grey matter. White matter is made up of bundles of nerve fibres that connect disparate parts of the brain together and allow these regions to communicate via electrical signals. These nerve fibers are coated in myelin, an insulating fatty layer that appears white when examined by the naked eye; hence the name.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 6th Annual Neuroinflammation Symposium and Manitoba-Ontario endMS Regional Research and Training Centre Retreat. Every year, the symposium, which is hosted by the MS Society ‘s endMS Research and Training Network, gathers together trainees and clinical and basic researchers from across Canada and around the world under one roof to forge new connections and share exciting discoveries related to MS research. This year’s meeting was hosted in the beautiful new Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, just down the road from our National Office here in Toronto. The schedule was packed to the brim with symposium presentations and poster sessions featuring cutting-edge research in the field of MS, encompassing a wide variety of topics including myelin repair, imaging, neurodegeneration, management of cognitive and psychosocial aspects of MS, and advancement of research and clinical practice through rehabilitation.