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Our Stories

St. Michael’s Hospital’s Dr. Jiwon Oh leading national MS research project

Toronto, December 6, 2018

By Michael Oliveira

Dr. Jiwon Oh
Dr. Jiwon Oh

St. Michael’s Hospital’s Dr. Jiwon Oh is leading a team of dozens of world-leading researchers from across Canada in a $7-million research project that aims to learn more about the progression of multiple sclerosis.

The project, announced Thursday by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and Brain Canada, is called the Proactive Cohort Study for People Living with MS (CanProCo) and will begin with the recruitment of as many as 1,000 Canadians living with the disease.

“The unique thing about this project is it’s the first national effort directed at trying to understand the various factors that contribute to progression in MS,” said Dr. Oh.

“Hopefully over time we will understand not just the biological mechanisms of the disease but also other things like the gamut of factors that run from clinical factors to biological factors to even things like environment, education, how far you are from a clinic — all these things that can contribute to progression in MS, which is the most debilitating part of the disease”

Dr. Oh, a neurologist and multiple sclerosis expert who joined the hospital in May 2014, is one of the only researchers in the world using multiple advanced imaging techniques to look at the impact of MS on spinal cord tissue in the hopes of finding biomarkers that will help clinicians monitor and more accurately predict how MS will progress in individual patients.

She says the wealth of information being analyzed during this project and the diverse expertise of the nearly 50 researchers contributing to the work are truly exciting.

“We’re spreading our net wide and doing a very deep dive of data collection and we have many scientists who are known leaders in their respective fields of study,” says Dr. Oh.

“We have neurologists, MRI physicists, computer scientists who use advanced machine learning techniques, epidemiologists, health economists ¬— so everyone is well versed in their field, but the fact that we’re bringing all of these different fields of study together is really important because multiple heads are always better than one, and it allows all of us to step a little outside our comfort zones and look at MS in a broader way.”

Researchers believe the project’s data could also be useful to colleagues studying other neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Huntington's.

Recruitment for Canadians who would like to join the cohort is expected to begin early 2019.

The project’s funders include Brain Canada with financial support from Health Canada through the Canada Brain Research Fund; Biogen Canada; and the MS Society through lead donors PCL Construction, Bennett Jones LLP and several individuals who made significant contributions.

These papers are an example of how St. Michael's Hospital is making Ontario Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

St. Michael’s Hospital with Providence Healthcare and St. Joseph’s Health Centre now operate under one corporate entity as of August 1, 2017. United, the three organizations serve patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education.

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