Congratulations to Fardowsa Yusuf (pictured left), MSc who has been awarded the CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Award for her research on the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) prodrome. Yusuf is jointly supervised by DMCBH member Dr. Helen Tremlett (pictured right) and Dr. Mohammad Ehsanul (Ehsan) Karim in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.

Yusuf completed her Master’s in Dr. Tremlett’s lab, where she looked at the MS prodrome, which refers to early symptoms that happen before classical onset of the disease. For a long time, MS wasn’t thought to have a prodromal phase, but Dr. Tremlett’s team helped debunk this theory with research that found people with MS, people without, were up to four times more likely to have been treated for nervous system disorders in the five years leading up to the first clinically recognized signs of MS, compared to people without MS.

Since then, Yusuf has gone on to explore the prodrome in more detail and found people with MS were more likely to experience fatigue, sleep disorders, anemia and pain in the five years before they develop the first clinically recognized signs of the disorder.

For her doctoral work which will be supported by the Award, Yusuf will further characterize the MS prodrome, and is currently looking at age and sex differences by analyzing Canadian health records. So far, her research suggests the prodrome is more likely to show as pain in older individuals and anemia in men.

Studying the MS prodrome could have important implications on how the disease is diagnosed and treated in the future.

“Once we have a better understanding of the prodromal period, we’ll have a better understanding of when the risk period for MS is,” says Yusuf. “This could potentially lead to earlier diagnoses and treatment of MS.”

Yusuf says she is honoured to receive the Banting and Best Doctoral Award which will support her with three years of funding throughout her PhD, and that being the successful recipient of such a competitive award has provided her with an extra vote of confidence.

Dr. Tremlett says Yusuf is the perfect person to work on such a complex and important project.

“We’re thrilled that Fardowsa will be re-joining our team. There is so much that we do not understand about the prodromal phase of MS,” says Dr. Tremlett. “This work will help researchers better understand what causes MS, and has the potential to benefit the future care and management of MS.”

This project is a unique collaboration with teams across Canada and Sweden and is being supported by the MS Society of Canada (EGID: 3743; PI: Tremlett).