Affiliation(s): University of Manitoba
Dr. Soheila Karimi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, and the Regenerative Medicine Program, in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Karimi has had a long-term interest in neural repair and regeneration with a focus on uncovering mechanisms and developing therapies for remyelination (renewal of myelin, the protective covering over nerve fibers) in multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries.
Dr. Karimi received her PhD degree in neurosciences from the University of Saskatchewan in 2001, and then undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at the Toronto Western Research Institute and the University of Toronto. During her training, she received numerous academic and research awards, notable a Synthes Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, and postdoctoral fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Her seminal postdoctoral research showed that successful remyelination and improved recovery of function can be achieved by transplantation of neural stem cells in preclinical models. Her seminal work has been instrumental for implementing neural stem cell therapies in clinical trials for spinal cord injuries that are currently under way.
Dr. Karimi joined the University of Manitoba in 2010 to help in establishing the Regenerative Medicine Program in Manitoba. Current research in Karimi’s laboratory continues to focus on uncovering disease mechanisms and developing regenerative therapies for multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury.
Dr. Karimi’s MS Society funded research has focused on development and evaluation of clinically relevant and effective pharmacological therapies that specifically repair and renew damaged myelin in MS lesions.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
I have had a long-term interest in myelin repair since the beginning of my doctoral training. I learned that damage to myelin (demyelination) is a shared neuropathology in several debilitating conditions such as MS, spinal cord and brain injuries. I dedicated years of my research career to develop pharmacological and stem cell therapies to promote renewal of damaged myelin. Currently, in my laboratory, we are employing the gained knowledge to design and evaluate new effective regenerative medicine strategies for MS patients in near future.
What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?
The most interesting aspect of research is the discovery part that happens in the lab. Research is an exciting and dynamic process. We learn something new each day and it never becomes a regular task. Importantly, it is extremely rewarding when our discoveries can help patients. Research also has its own unique hardship. One major challenge is the current funding climate and budget cut that has prevented many researchers from pursuing their ideas and discoveries. Therefore, it is important to support researchers.
Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?
Our research is a collaborative effort. With the support of MS Society of Canada, we have been able to form a multidisciplinary team with diverse and complementary expertise.Our team is composed of several established researchers who offer a broad range of expertise in different areas. Our team is capable of conducting regenerative medicine, animal MS modeling, stem cell therapy, imaging, drug delivery, genetics, immunology, neurophysiology and human tissue studies. Considering the comprehensive goal of our research, collaborations are imperative to ensure our success.
How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?
The funding support from the MSSOC has been a tremendous help. This research would have not been possible without this support. Our research relies on the external funding that we receive to cover the cost of our experiments and provide salary for our key research staff who conduct the research. We are grateful to this support, which has enabled us to continue our translational research with the hope to develop an effective treatment for MS patients in near future.
If you could ask one question to a person living with MS that would help you design your study, what would it be?
To understand what improvements are most important for MS patients in regaining their functions, I would ask them to identify three functions/improvement in order of importance for their quality of life.