Young Researchers in Multiple Sclerosis Earn Awards at ACTRIMS Forum 2018

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by Ana Pena PhD |

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ACTRIMS Forum 2018 awards

The Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) has awarded five young investigators for their research work on multiple sclerosis (MS).

The awards were presented at the ACTRIMS Forum 2018, held Feb. 1-3 in San Diego, California.

Adil Harroud, MD, from McGill University, won the award for “Best Young Investigator Oral Presenter,” for his study “Effect of Age at Puberty on Risk of Multiple Sclerosis: A Mendelian Randomization Study”.

According to the research, “Puberty attainment marks a dramatic increase in MS incidence and the emergence of a female predominant sex ratio, suggesting that it may be a defining period in MS etiology” the team wrote in its study.

The study’s goal was to clarify whether puberty onset at a younger age increases the chances of developing MS, given that contradictory results have been reported on that hypothesis.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis based on genetic variants strongly associated with age at menarche (the first menstrual cycle) in a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) involving 329,245 women.

The analysis revealed that a one-year decrease in the age at puberty increased odds of MS development by 8 percent.

However, after taking into account the effect of body mass index (BMI) in puberty timing, the direct effect of age on MS susceptibility was lost.

“This study demonstrates that genetically decreased age at puberty increases the risk of MS. This association is largely mediated by the effects of puberty timing on BMI. However, the pathways underlying a possible effect of age at puberty on disease course and severity remain unclear” the researchers concluded. 

Two other young investigators won second place for their oral presentations at the meeting: Kirsten Evonuk, PhD, Cleveland Clinic, with the study “Selective Deletion of AMPA Receptors on Oligodendrocytes Prevents Demyelination and Axonal Injury in Autoimmune Demyelination; and Patrick Duncker, BS, University of Michigan, with the work “CCL6 Is Induced in CNS-Infiltrating Myeloid Cells By a GM-CSF Dependent Pathway, Driving Chronic Disability during EAE.

In addition, two young investigators were recognized as the best poster presenters: Elias Sotirchos, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, with the study “Effects of Disease-Modifying Therapy on Brain Compartment Atrophy Rates — a 5-Year Study;” and Marc Charabati, Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, for his work “Mcam on the BBB Contributes to Neuroinflammation by Promoting the Recruitment of Encephalitogenic T Lymphocytes into the Central Nervous System.”

The ACTRIMS Forum’s main goals have been to promote young investigators’ research and provide them the opportunity to interact with established researchers and clinicians, encouraging knowledge sharing and advances in the MS field.

The annual ACTRIMS Forum reached almost 1,000 attendees this year. ACTRIMS Forum 2019 will be held Feb. 28–March 2 in Dallas, Texas.

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