As the end of 2015 draws near, I can’t help but feel a sense of hope and pride as I reflect upon what has been accomplished in multiple sclerosis research over the past year. From enabling the launch of the first human clinical trial for mesenchymal stem cells in Canada, to sustaining momentum in funding for grants under the Progressive MS Alliance, your support – whether it be from fundraising and donations, raising awareness, or simply providing words of encouragement – has been insurmountable.
Thanks to all of you, Canadian MS researchers, trainees, and health professionals are able to do the work they do and lead the fight to end MS. This year we witnessed significant advancements in treating and further understanding MS: we learned that vitamin D deficiency is more strongly linked to risk of MS than we previously thought; that a specific type of inflammatory B cell plays a major role in the development of MS; that low levels of exercise among younger people with MS is strongly associated with disease severity, depression and fatigue.
My team at the MS Society has also been quite busy. We recently launched Research in Action, a monthly e-bulletin highlighting research news, events, and people in the community who are actively involved in research. A record breaking 622 participants from across Canada participated in our annual MS Research Telephone Town Hall (formerly the MS Research Webinar), which was hosted by Bob McDonald from CBC’s Quirks & Quarks. This past August we sent out the MS Wellness Survey, which received an overwhelming response from the MS community. The survey allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of the practices and gaps in nutrition, physical activity, and emotional wellbeing among people affected by MS, and will greatly influence future research funding priorities.
People living with MS are becoming more engaged in research, and want to play a meaningful role in how research studies are designed, carried out, analyzed, and translated into real-world practice. At the MS Society we are looking at ways to involve people living with MS in research, in addition to our Community Representatives program.
These and so many other activities and milestones mark the beginning of a very exciting era in MS research. I look forward to seeing what the future has in store and commend all of you for being champions of research and supporting ongoing progress towards a cure for MS.
On behalf of the research team at the MS Society of Canada, I want to wish all of you Happy Holidays and a safe and Happy New Year!