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National MS Society Invests Nearly $19 Million in New Research to Stop Multiple Sclerosis, Restore Function and End MS Forever

What do exercise, skin cells and gut bacteria have in common? They are among the new leads being explored to move us closer to a world free of MS.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has committed nearly $19 million to support an expected 54 new MS research projects. These are part of a comprehensive research strategy aimed at stopping MS, restoring function that has been lost, and ending the disease forever – for every single person with MS.

This financial commitment is the latest in the Society’s relentless research efforts to move us closer to a world free of MS, investing more than $50 million in 2014 alone to support 380 new and ongoing studies around the world. So that no opportunity is wasted, the Society pursues all promising paths, while focusing on three priority areas: progressive MS, nervous system repair, and wellness and lifestyle.

Just a few of the new cutting-edge research projects include a study at Stanford University using skin cells to produce repair cells for possible future use to restore nerve-insulating myelin in MS; pre-clinical studies by a commercial firm (Glialogix) to test the nervous system-protective qualities of an oral therapy repurposed to address progressive MS; a Mayo Clinic study of beneficial gut bacteria for clues to a novel therapeutic strategy for MS; and a wellness study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign testing whether an exercise program done at home can increase strength and balance and reduce falls in people with MS.

“The comprehensive nature of these new research investments is very exciting,” noted National MS Society Executive Vice President, Research Bruce Bebo, PhD.  “While we’re driving research to stop MS, restore function and end the disease forever, at the same time we’re identifying key interventions and solutions that can help people with MS live their best lives now.”  Download details about the new research awards.

Multiple sclerosis interrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the body.  Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease.  Worldwide, over 2.3 million people live with the unpredictable challenges of multiple sclerosis.

“MS research is a top National MS Society priority, with increasing annual investments to drive solutions for every person with MS,” Cynthia Zagieboylo, President and CEO of the Society. “We fund the entire research spectrum, propelling novel ideas into the lab, translating breakthroughs into clinical trials, and moving success in clinical trials into new treatments for people living with MS.”

To find the best research with the most promise, the National MS Society relies on more than 130 world-class scientists who volunteer their time to carefully evaluate hundreds of proposals every year.  This rigorous evaluation process assures that Society funds fuel research that delivers results in the shortest time possible.

There are FDA-approved therapies that can impact the underlying disease course in people with the more common forms of MS.  However, none of these can stop progression or reverse the damage to restore function.  National MS Society-funded research paved the way for existing therapies – none of which existed 20 years ago – and continues to be a driving force of MS research.

Multiple sclerosis cases hit 2.3 mln worldwide

(Reuters) – The number of people living with multiple sclerosis around the world has increased by 10 percent in the past five years to 2.3 million, according to the most extensive survey of the disease to date.

The debilitating neurological condition, which affects twice as many women as men, is found in every region of the world, although prevalence rates vary widely.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is most common in North America and Europe, at 140 and 108 cases per 100,000 respectively, while in sub-Saharan Africa the rate is just 2.1 per 100,000, the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation’s Atlas of MS 2013 showed on Wednesday.

The atlas also confirmed that MS occurs significantly more in countries at high latitude, with Sweden having the highest rate in Europe and Argentina having more cases than countries further north in Latin America.

The reason for the link to high latitudes is unclear but some scientists have suggested that exposure to sunlight may reduce the incidence of the disease.

The survey found a big increases in the number of medical experts trained to diagnose MS and help patients with treatment, while the number of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines available to carry out scans has doubled in emerging countries.

But huge disparities remain when it comes to access to modern disease-modifying drugs.

MS medicine has seen a number of advances in recent years, particularly with the introduction of a new generation of oral therapies such as Novartis’ Gilenya, Biogen Idec’s Tecfidera and Sanofi’s Aubagio.

These medicines offer an effective alternative to older disease-modifying treatments that are given by injection.

The survey found that injectable drugs like Biogen’s Avonex and Teva’s Copaxone were partly or fully funded in 96 percent of high-income countries, while Gilenya was available in 76 percent.

However, none of these drugs was available under government programmes in low-income countries. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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