The Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) named four scientists the winners of its Pilot Research Award for 2019, given to support projects thought to advance the CMSC’s mission and improve the lives of people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Stephanie L. Silveira, PhD, with the University of Alabama at Birmingham
- Christopher Hemond, MD, with the University of Massachusetts Medical School
- Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD, with the University of California San Francisco, and
- Kaarina Kowalec, PhD, with the College of Pharmacy at the University of Manitoba
“CMSC is excited about these Pilot Research Programs, and is grateful to EMD Serono for making them a reality,” June Halper, chief executive officer of the CMSC, said in a press release. “These diverse and new research approaches to MS diagnose and care will help improve patients outcomes and quality of life.”
Silveira will lead a nationwide study into diet, physical activity, and stress management in patients using wheelchairs, and how those behaviors affect their overall health and quality of life. The project will be titled “Examining Patterns and Correlates of Wellness in Persons with Multiple Sclerosis who use Wheelchairs.”
Data from this epidemiological study, often used in public health, may aid in developing interventions that address aspects of diet, exercise, and stress that are unique to wheelchair users with MS.
In the project “Immunological and MRI Correlates of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction in MS,” Hemond and will investigate the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a stress-relief technique that combines mindfulness meditation and education, in a group of people with MS.
Studies have shown a close relationship between stress levels and MS outcomes, with periods of high stress appearing to worsen disease symptoms. A clinical trial found that a stress reduction program appeared to help prevent the formation of new brain lesions in participants.
Hemond’s project will continue on the trial’s footsteps, exploring how MBSR might be of clinical relevance to MS patients.
Waubant’s project, “MRI in Pediatric MOG Syndrome,” will investigate the use of new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to help physicians distinguish children with MS from those with demyelinating disorders that can mimic MS symptoms but are distinct ills, such as MOG-associated disease.
Findings here could help doctors more quickly make an accurate diagnosis, essential for proper treatment and disease management that might prevent or slow the accumulation of disability.
Mental health is the focus of Kowalec’s project, “Understanding Psychiatric Comorbidity in Multiple Sclerosis Using Genomics,” which seeks to better understand mental disorders by looking for genetic factors — via DNA analysis — that might be considered a “genetic risk score.”
Certain genetic factors are known to be associated with depression or anxiety, and the sum of these factors make up a person’s genetic risk score or likelihood of developing a mental health disorder. Kowalec in this project will try to determine if risk scores among MS patients with mental illness are distinctly different from patients without such disorders.
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