Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Dr. Shannon Kolind

Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Neurology, University of British Columbia

Dr. Kolind earned her PhD in Physics at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, developing ways to measure myelin, the insulating layer that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB) at the University of Oxford as well as the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. While in the UK, she specialized in developing new methods to image myelin in the brain and spinal cord and making these techniques more practical for use in research. She then returned to UBC, this time in the Division of Neurology, to become an Assistant Professor. Dr. Kolind’s lab is focused on developing a toolbox of tissue-specific imaging techniques. Her multi-disciplinary team employs these multi-modal tools to achieving greater sensitivity and specificity in clinical research; particularly for clinical trials of new therapies. This work is largely focused on multiple sclerosis (MS) and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).

Learn more about Dr. Kolind

How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?

My First exposure to MS was through my grandfather who was diagnosed before the invention of MRI. He was a wonderful man, and I am honoured to be able to work to try to improve the lives of those receiving that same diagnosis now and hope to see the end of such a diagnosis. From a scientific perspective, it is an extremely exciting time to be involved in MS research with so many successful new therapies on the horizon; understanding how these therapies work and who might benefit from them is very rewarding.

What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?

When I discovered that I could use physics to help with health problems, I was immediately hooked. I am constantly amazed and humbled by the spirit of the people I have met through MS research. Being part of such a passionate community deeply motivates my work. Because MS research has so many facets, it is challenging to understand enough to do effective work. For instance, to be a great imager you must understand the biology and immunology you are trying to image. Fortunately, I work in a diverse collaborative environment that allows me to use the expertise of others to fill the many gaps.

Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?

The environment at UBC is exceptional, providing a wealth of opportunities for collaborations between departments, as well as with people living with MS. I regularly interact with physicists, neurologists, radiologists, computer scientists, statisticians, psychologists, neuroscientists, pathologists, immunologists, epidemiologists, geneticists, nurses, coordinators and students. Without this highly motivated, productive, and diverse team, we would not be able to approach problems with the understanding needed to be effective.

How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?

Support from the MSSC is critical to our research. Over 50% of people living with MS have a progressive form of the disease, meaning that disability increases steadily. This grant allows us to focus on people with progressive MS, who are often ineligible for clinical trials or studies. It provides funding for qualified personnel, keeping key researchers in the field of MS research. It allows us to publish and present results such that everyone can access them. It also enables greater collaboration and communication within the Canadian MS research community.

If you could ask one question to a person living with MS that would help you design your study, what would it be?

What aspect of MS do you feel is being overlooked, despite having a big impact on your life?

Dr. Kolind’s MS Society supported project:

Establishing an imaging biomarker for disease progression in multiple sclerosis