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    2012: Sweeping Advances Made in MS Research

    December 11, 2012

    MS research continued to advance on many fronts in 2012. This year saw:
    • The approval of a second oral therapy for relapsing forms of MS and other emerging treatments progressing through the development pipeline;
    • The launch of the International Progressive MS Collaborative, the largest effort to date to speed research to stop progressive forms of MS;
    • The discovery of what could be a target of the immune attack in people with MS, which may lead to new understanding of the disease and new treatment strategies;
    • The completion of the first human trial of an experimental therapy targeting myelin repair;
    • Progress in restoring functions using innovative rehabilitation techniques, including memory enhancement using a technique involving stories and imagery to solidify learning, and improving balance and mobility with specific exercises; and
    • Advances in uncovering MS triggering factors, bringing us closer to finding ways to prevent the disease; and many other advances pushing us closer to a world free of MS.
    The National MS Society continues to propel research forward with a comprehensive strategy aimed at stopping MS, restoring function and ending MS forever:
    • This year we invested $44 million in over 350 new and ongoing projects;
    • Projects include everything from discovery research to the Society’s drug development efforts through Fast Forward®.
    • Read about recently launched research projects.

    In the world’s largest meeting dedicated to MS research, over 7,000 scientists convened in Lyon, France to present findings at ECTRIMS (European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS). Over 1250 studies covering virtually every aspect of research were presented:
    • View videos on specific ECTRIMS topics

    Progress Toward Stopping MS

    The Society continued to invest in research to stop MS, including:
    • Funding of clinical trials:
    • Testing whether vitamin D, or the sex hormone estriol, or the probiotic approach of a sports drink containing parasite eggs, can reduce MS immune attacks
    • Determining if treatments available for other disorders, such as riluzole (a treatment for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) or phenytoin (a treatment for epilepsy), or the antioxidants lipoic acid or green tea extract, can protect the nervous system from damage.
    • Supporting a syndicate formed in the United Kingdom to conduct innovative clinical trials of neuroprotective drugs in secondary-progressive MS;
    • New projects focusing on discovering “biomarkers” to aid better diagnosis and treatment decisions;
    • Collaboration in a cross-disease drug screening initiative aimed at discovering the potential of compounds to stop nerve degeneration and protect the brain from harm;
    • In partnership with Merck Serono, Fast Forward provided funding for lab research to discover small molecules that can deliver therapies to areas of nervous system damage and protect against that damage in MS.

    Progress Toward Restoring What's Been Lost

    The Society supported new and ongoing initiatives to propel efforts to restore function to people with MS through its Discovery and Fast Forward research programs, including:
    • New studies into the potential of adult skin cells and umbilical cord cells as a source of nervous system repair cells;
    • A new pilot research program to tap MS-specific funds from the Illinois Lottery, with a focus on nervous system repair and novel rehabilitation approaches;
    • Cutting-edge research to discover new targets to stimulate myelin repair and early testing of new approaches to treating MS symptoms;
    • Clinical trials testing the ability of cannabis to treat spasticity, aspirin to fight fatigue, and innovative rehabilitation and exercise programs aimed at improving mobility, fatigue, spasticity and cognitive problems;
    • A study using advanced MRI analysis to determine how the brain regions associated with pain are affected by MS.

    Progress Toward Ending MS Forever

    To drive efforts to understand what triggers MS and ways to prevent it, the Society:
    • Convened an international summit on vitamin D in MS;
    • Renewed funding for an enhanced MS DNA core resource bank to foster better understanding of genes that make people susceptible to MS and may also control the course of an individual’s MS.
    • Supported several new research projects aimed at:
    • Understanding how risk factors such as vitamin D levels and genes to contribute to a person’s susceptibility to developing MS
    • Investigating how bacteria that naturally live in the human body, including in the intestines, may influence MS susceptibility and disease activity
    • Launched a new, $100,000 annual cash prize to recognize scientists whose inventive work is propelling measurable MS research progress. The Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research is the largest ever cash prize for MS research, and is made possible by the generosity of the Charles and Margery Barancik SO Foundation.

    Lives were changed in 2012 with the introduction of a second oral MS therapy, the launch of new collaborative research efforts, and significant results of recent studies promising more options in 2013 for people living with MS.


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