May – Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month
What’s new in MS at The Neuro
The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro at McGill University and the MUHC has Canada’s oldest MS clinic but is always innovating – striving for progress and better treatments for patients. Each year, the clinic treats around two thousand patients with a multidisciplinary approach that ensures the best care for patients suffering from reduced mobility, and families trying to cope with the needs of their loved one. Patients may participate in important clinical trials of new MS drugs at The Neuro’s Clinical Research Unit. For more information please go to http://cru.mcgill.ca/
The Neuro’s young scientists contribute to MS research: Throughout its history, The Neuro has taken pride in forming the next generation of outstanding MS researchers and physicians. In March 2015, a group of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows working in the laboratories of Dr. Jack Antel and Dr. Amit Bar-Or published an article in the scientific journal, Brain, about their work on microglia. Microglia are dynamic cells that are believed capable of both damaging and repairing the central nervous system. The article dealt with microRNAs, which are molecules that regulate gene expression. The regulation of microglia by microRNAs has implications for new therapies in which microglia are mediated to suppress brain injury or to promote repair. Students and post-docs contributing to the research were M.A. Michell-Robinson, H. Touil, L.M. Healy, D.R. Owen, and B. A. Durafourt, and senior author Craig Moore, who now holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience and Brain Repair at Memorial University, Newfoundland.
Basic research – discovering the mechanisms of disease: Dr. Tim Kennedy’s lab has identified a new molecular mechanism that acts to maintain healthy myelin the protective covering of axons. Damage to myelin, has been linked to MS. The newly discovered mechanism involves a protein called DCC that is made by oligodendrocytes, the cells that make myelin. Dr. Kennedy’s study shows that deleting DCC results in the progressive degeneration of paranodal junctions – which are the connections that link an oligodendrocyte to an axon. The removal of DCC ultimately caused this degeneration to spread from the paranodal junctions to myelin. The study supports the notion that the paranodal junctions might be weak links that could become vulnerable to attack in MS.
Major boost for MS research: A private donor, Mr. David Torrey, President of Torcanus Inc., has given a major boost to MS research at The Neuro. Mr. Torrey has donated $800,000 to establish the David L. Torrey Multiple Sclerosis Endowment Fund for Excellence. The Fund is dedicated to supporting researchers’ most urgent needs. “I honestly want them to find the cause and the cure,” says Mr. Torrey. The emotional connection underlying Mr. Torrey’s Fund is a profound one. His eldest daughter, now 59, was diagnosed with MS at 17. She is a patient of Dr. Amit Bar-Or, neurologist and MS specialist at The Neuro. The Torrey Fund will help the work that Dr. Bar-Or, his colleague Dr. Antel, and other MS researchers at The Neuro are conducting on the cutting edge. Mr. Torrey’s Fund is a concrete expression of his hope that their research will help not only his daughter but many other MS patients. “I am passionate about being able to support the most innovative research,” says Mr. Torrey, who has been a long-time MS donor and volunteer. “The work of researchers like Dr. Bar-Or and Dr. Antel will lead to improvements in the lives of people with MS.”
In June, Joe Rochford will become the new Director of the Integrated Program in Neuroscience. Dr. Rochford, who served as Associate Director of the IPN for the past three years, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University and Director of the Neurophenotyping Service Platform of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute. His research interests revolve around the area of behavioural pharmacology, particularly within the context of rodent models of psychiatric and neurological disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease). He is also director of Academic Affairs at the Douglas Institute, where he is actively involved in teaching and training initiatives at all levels. Dr. Edward Ruthazer has been named Associate Director, taking over Joe’s previous role.
With 350 graduate students and over 180 IPN professors, the IPN is Canada’s largest graduate neuroscience program. The IPN spans the full spectrum of neuroscience research, from cellular and molecular neuroscience to behavioral and cognitive neuroscience.
Dr. Rochford takes over from Dr. Josephine Nalbantoglu, who has been at the helm of the IPN since 2009. Dr. Nalbantoglu has been the driving force behind the development and growth of the IPN. She has been involved with every student’s journey throughout their degree process. Under her leadership, the IPN became one of the most sought after and successful programs in the country. Students in the program are highly successful in obtaining national awards. In the past four years, there have been a total of 18 Vanier scholars in the IPN, and there are 5 new ones this year. We extend our deep appreciation to Josephine for her commitment to the program and to the students.
Neuro Advisory Board- minding our future
The Neuro Advisory Board plays a vital role in fulfilling The Neuro’s mission. Members provide expert counsel and aid to the Director on the continuing development of The Neuro’s integrated mission and achieving intermediate and long-term goals. Over the last several few months changes have been made to The Neuro Advisory Board. The new structure was recently endorsed by McGill and the MUHC, and new members confirmed. At the first meeting on May 5, Mr. Jacques Bougie was confirmed as Chair and Dr. Rouleau presented an overview of The Neuro’s research and clinical missions, as well as future strategic priorities. The next meeting will take place in September.
New Challenge for Phil Barker
Dr. Phil Barker, Scientific Director at the MNI, will be leaving to take up a new position at UBC, effective September 1, 2015. In his new role as Vice-Principal for Research at the Okanagan campus of UBC in Kelowna, Phil will be shaping innovation policy throughout the UBC system. Phil has been at the MNI for 21 years and, in addition to being a superb scientist, has played many critical leadership roles. He was Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives, Chair of the MNI’s CECR Program and Internal Review Committee, Interim Director of the MNI, and finally Scientific Director of the MNI. We are grateful for his important contributions to the MNI and McGill over the years.