There has been growing interest in the potential effect of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) on the gut microbiota composition and functionality. UBC’s Pharmacoepidemiology in Multiple Sclerosis (PiMS) research group conducted a systematic review to examine the relationship between the DMTs used to treat MS and the gut microbiome. The paper was recently published in the Journal of Neurology.

We spoke to lead author Wendy Tsai — third-year medical student in the PiMS Lab under Dr. Helen Tremlett, to learn more about this study as well as her research interests.

Wendy Tsai

What were the main findings of this paper?

Our paper found a consistent pattern of specific gut microbes linked to the use of DMTs.

Why are these findings important?

Our findings may enhance our understanding of how DMTs work mechanistically and shed light on the association between MS and the gut microbiota, independent of DMT use. Exploring the role of the DMTs on the gut microbiome could ultimately pave the way for a more individualized approach to treating MS, improving care and outcomes.

What prompted your interest in this research?

My interest in MS arose from working closely with an individual with MS at a senior home and through my clinical experience with those with MS. Additionally, I am specifically interested in the gut microbiome, an emerging field recognized for its potentially significant impact on the development and function of the immune system and the central nervous system. I aimed to integrate both my interests by collaborating with Prof. Tremlett to formulate this study question.

What drew you to neuroscience?

My commitment to delving into the intricate complexities of the neuroscience field stems from my clinical experiences and passion for understanding complex neurological diseases. I am also intrigued by the immense potential that neuroscience research holds for contributing to advancements in healthcare. I hope to make valuable efforts to advance clinical knowledge, meaningfully impact those affected by neurological diseases, and contribute to improved health outcomes.

Where have you presented these findings?

I presented my work and findings at the UBC Neurology Resident Research Day and the International Society of Neuroimmunology Congress this year!