New Research Study Investigates Metformin as a Therapy to Promote Brain Repair and Reduce Disability in Children and Young Adults with MS

ng Adults with MS

MS Society of Canada invests $400,000 in Canadian Team of MS Researchers

Toronto, ON – February 2, 2020 – Today the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announced $400,000 in funding to support a pilot clinical trial to investigate the use of metformin as a therapy for children and young adults with multiple sclerosis (MS). In partnership with Stem Cell Network (SCN) and Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM), this investment increases the funding for the trial to $1 million. These partnerships are critical for leveraging more research dollars and increased impact for the benefit of Canadian health. Metformin, a widely-used and safe drug prescribed for type 2 diabetes, is a therapeutic agent that may promote brain repair and reduce disability following white matter damage in people living with MS.

Damage to white matter in the brain occurs in people with MS resulting in sensory, motor, and cognitive problems. Preclinical evidence shows metformin enhances oligodendrocytes – cells that produce myelin – and promotes white matter repair in animal models and in youth with radiation-induced brain injury. This research aims to translate these preclinical findings from animal and human studies into clinical practice by conducting a pilot feasibility trial.

Dr. Ann Yeh (The Hospital for Sick Children [SickKids], University of Toronto) is the lead investigator of the study and she will be joined by a team of nine Canadian researchers.

“Our team is very excited about being able to move this trial forward, and for the collaborations across multiple different scientific areas that the collaborative grant will allow. This is truly a team effort that started at the bench at SickKids – in the lab of Dr. Freda Miller – and has set the stage for a clinical trial that could potentially improve outcomes for children and young adults living with MS,” says Dr. Ann Yeh, Staff Physician, Division of Neurology and Senior Associate Scientist, Neurosciences & Mental Health at SickKids.

“This trial is a unique opportunity to advance novel therapies that target regeneration and repair to help reverse the progressive nature of MS by re-purposing a safe, low-cost treatment,” says Dr. Pamela Valentine president and CEO, MS Society of Canada. “The MS Society is thrilled to partner with SCN and OIRM in funding this project that has the potential to change the life course, and transform treatment and care for youth and people living with MS.”

The trial is the outcome of several years of work and support among researchers and partners involved in this project. It is set to run for three years and aims to recruit 30 participants between the ages of 10 to 25 who have been diagnosed with MS.

To learn more about this research trial, click here.


About multiple sclerosis and the MS Society of Canada

Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. On average, 12 Canadians are diagnosed every day. MS is a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord). It is considered an episodic disability meaning that the severity and duration of illness and disability can vary and are often followed by periods of wellness. It can also be progressive. Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20 and 49 and the unpredictable effects of the disease will last for the rest of their lives. The MS Society provides information, support and advocacy to people affected by MS, and funds research to find the cause and cure for the disease, bringing us closer to a world free of MS. Please visit or call 1-800-268-7582 for more information, to get involved, or to support Canadians affected by MS by making a donation.

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About the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM)

OIRM is a non-profit stem cell institute funded in part by the Ontario government and dedicated to transforming discoveries into clinical trials and cures. Through our commitment to collaboration and partnerships, we leverage our resources to fund and support promising advances. OIRM is a passionate champion for investigators and their patients as we build a healthier future for Ontario, Canada and the world.

About the Stem Cell Network (SCN)

Tomorrow’s health is here. SCN is a national non-profit that supports stem cell and regenerative medicine research, training the next generation of highly qualified personnel, and delivering outreach activities across Canada. SCN’s goal is to advance science from the lab to the clinic for the benefit of Canadians. SCN has been supported by the Government of Canada since inception in 2001. This strategic funding valued at $118M has benefitted approximately 196 world-class research groups and 3,300 trainees and has catalyzed 24 clinical trials.


Jennifer Asselin

MS Society of Canada

1-800-268-7582 ext. 3144