BARLO MS Centre on the frontiers of discovery

How clinician-scientists are using MRI, AI and genetics to probe deeper into multiple sclerosis

The BARLO MS Centre exemplifies HUMANCARE – offering one-stop care to patients with multiple sclerosis. Our clinician-scientists are conducting groundbreaking research to customize care – and harnessing AI and digital tools to support research, education and operations. We caught up with Medical Director Dr. Jiwon Oh, the Waugh Family Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Research, to learn more.

You’re renowned for using MRI as a tool to probe markers of the disease. Any exciting news?

We’re following people with radiologically isolated syndrome (RIS, which is presymptomatic MS) and looking at the ability of advanced MRI measures to predict which of these patients will develop MS over time. We are very excited because we will be reporting the five-year longitudinal followup results this year. In fact, we have identified a number of advanced MRI measures that seem to be highly predictive of which RIS patients will develop MS. This will help us understand how MS starts and progresses, and will likely have a significant impact from a clinical standpoint in managing people with RIS.

You’ve also pioneered the use of AI in your field. How are you using digital technology at the centre?

We’re working with the Li Ka Shing Centre for Healthcare Analytics Research and Training team to apply AI to predict clinical outcomes in our patients, and are even working to use AI to assist with time-consuming administrative tasks in the clinic, like completing insurance paperwork. We will also be piloting the use of digital tools to collect information on measures like cognition and quality of life.

Any other exciting developments at the BARLO MS Centre?

Yes. We recently hired Dr. Matt Lincoln, who is a clinician-scientist working on the genetics of MS. Dr. Lincoln will augment our team’s expertise and dive deeper into the causes of MS, and the reasons patients have different disease courses. 

That’s not all. This summer, Dr. Veronique Miron, a renowned microglial biologist will join our group as the John David Eaton Chair in Multiple Sclerosis. She does advanced research in microglia, which play a key pathophysiologic role in MS. Dr. Miron will lead our MS Basic Sciences group into a new era of scientific discovery.

We’ll also be launching clinical programs with neuropsychiatrist Dr. Anthony Feinstein, and physiatrist, Dr. Robert Simpson, including cognitive rehabilitation programs and mindfulness and wellness programs. We are investigating new ways to administer these programs, such as with digital tools. 

Finally, we will be launching the BARLO MS Centre website in the next year as an educational resource for our patients and community colleagues. 

Thank you to our relentless donor community who made the BARLO MS Centre a reality and who are funding groundbreaking research. Dr. Miron holds the John David Eaton Chair in Multiple Sclerosis; her work is supported by the Rosemary Hall and Ken Sloan Basic Science Research Fund. Dr. Matt Lincoln is the recipient of the Waugh Family Early-Career Award in Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Research.

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