National Multiple Sclerosis Society Commits to $17 Million for 43 Research Projects

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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MS society research funding

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is pumping $17 million into 43 research projects that represent almost half of its $40-million research funding commitment in 2017.

Among the projects are trials evaluating intermittent fasting as a way to harness inflammation and stem cell research. A growing number of studies indicate that stem cells can slow MS activity and repair the damage to the nervous system that is associated with the disease.

One of the criteria that the MS society uses to decide which projects to fund is whether they have the potential to deliver results in a short time.

“These new research investments are intended to answer strategic questions that will accelerate breakthroughs that change the world for people with MS,” Dr. Bruce Bebo, the society’s executive vice president of research, said in a press release.

The society funds projects in the United States and abroad. A British project it is funding is a Phase 3 clinical trial that will explore the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin’s ability to slow the course of secondary progressive MS.

A number of the projects aim to restore lost function in MS patients. One if a University of Utah effort to use lab-grown stem cells derived from patients’ skin to regenerate damaged brain or spinal cord tissue. The project is a collaboration between MS and stem cell specialists.

A project whose goal is to find a way to prevent MS from developing in the first place is one in which researchers will look at how genetic risk variants change cell processes. The team hopes that identifying the steps will lead to therapies that prevent people from ever developing the disease.

“Research breakthroughs fuel the treatments and solutions people with MS need to overcome the challenges of MS today, with confidence and hope for a world free of MS tomorrow,” the society wrote.

The society receives hundreds of research proposals each year. One hundred thirty scientists help it select the ones to fund. The scientists’ help is strictly voluntary.

“There are FDA-approved therapies that can impact the underlying disease course in people with the more common forms of MS, and the first therapy for treating primary progressive MS was recently approved,” the society wrote. “However, none of these therapies can stop progression or reverse the damage to restore function.”

That means the society will fund research until there are breakthroughs that end MS forever.

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