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About Research



F.A.Q. About Society- Funded MS Research

Introduction | Funding | Decisions/Oversight | Programs | Focus | Philosophies
Intriguing Leads | Progressive MS | Discoveries We’ve Made | Progress

What is the Focus of Society-funded Research?


Research funded by the Society falls under several general categories. They include:


Therapy of MS: investigations into treatments of possible value in fighting or improving symptoms in all forms of MS;

Care, Management, Rehabilitation, Psychosocial: seeking ways to maximize physical and mental abilities and reduce symptoms to improve quality of life; 

Immunology: exploring the role of the immune system in the development and progression of MS to find ways to stop the
immune attack on nervous tissues;

Nerve Tissue Repair and Myelin Biology: investigating ways to restore nerve function by studying glial cells that produce myelin, and other factors that play a role in tissue health and repair;

Genetics: hunting for several genes that may make people susceptible to MS, for hunting for several genes that may make people susceptible to MS, for clues to its cause and better treatment;

Infectious Triggers: examining the possibility that viruses or bacteria could act as disease triggers in MS;

Neuropathology/Neurophysiology: exploring fundamental workings of nerve cells and how they become damaged at different stages of MS;

Health Care Delivery & Policy: studying how people with MS utilize health-care services and how health-care delivery can be improved;

Resource Banks: Tissue and DNA banks that accumulate and store specimens for use by MS investigators.


What are the Society’s Targeted Research and Care Initiatives?


To encourage innovative research into highly promising areas and to improve MS patient care, the National MS Society launched the Promise: 2010 Campaign. This nationwide effort fueled by local MS chapters will raise at least $30 million to fund four targeted areas that hold great potential in the fight against the devastating effects of MS, but which have so far been under-explored.


Nervous System Repair and Protection: This bold international initiative with its collaborative team approach has been established to study tissue repair and protection in MS. To tackle this goal $15.6 million has been allocated to four new grants the largest single grants ever awarded by the Society. This research sets the stage to help translate basic science into meaningful, better therapies for people with MS in the future by restoring nerve function. The four interdisciplinary teams are being led by Drs. Peter Calabresi (Johns Hopkins), Ian D. Duncan (University of Wisconsin), Charles ffrench-Constant (Cambridge University) and Gavin Giovannoni (University College London), and involve collaborators in the Canada, Europe and the U.S.


Pediatric MS Centers of Excellence: About 8,000-10,000 children have MS, and another 10,000-15,000 experience what may be MS symptoms. MS is difficult to diagnose in children and most pediatricians are not familiar with MS. A first-of-its kind network of Pediatric MS Centers of Excellence has been created to set the standard for pediatric MS care. This integrated network will offer optimal medical and psychosocial support to children and their families, serve as a clearinghouse for information about childhood MS, and will conduct critical research to understand both childhood and adult MS. Six funded centers are led by Drs. Jayne Ness (Children’s Hospital of Alabama), Bianca Weinstock-Guttman (State University of New York, Buffalo), Nancy Kuntz & Moses Rodriguez (Mayo Clinic Rochester), Lauren Krupp (Stony Brook University Hospital), Tanuja Chitnis (Massachusetts General Hospital) and Emmanuelle Waubant (University of California, San Francisco).


The Sonya Slifka Longitudinal MS Study: The first study of its kind in the U.S., the Sonya Slifka Longitudinal MS Study is a repository of in-depth information about the lives of people with MS. Investigators are collecting detailed data from a national sampling of 2,000 individuals. This study integrates clinical information, healthcare practices, and socio-economic data to learn what happens to people with MS over time and what factors influence the long-term course of MS. The study is overseen by Sarah Minden, MD, of Abt Associates in Cambridge, Mass.


The MS Lesion Project: This international collaboration led by Claudia Lucchinetti, MD, at the Mayo Clinic seeks patterns in the MS damage seen in brain tissue and attempts to correlate those findings with actual clinical signs, symptoms, and responses to therapy. This effort provides vital information on the underlying pathology of MS and the impact of specific treatments. It is the most extensive attempt ever made to map and understand the meaning of MS damage seen in the brain.  With this knowledge, we hope to develop better ways of treating people who exhibit specific patterns of disease.



Why Does the Society Support Research on Health Care Delivery?


If the cure for MS were found tomorrow, it would be meaningless if people who have the disease could not gain access to the treatment. Even today, with multiple drugs available that can help many people with MS, and with physical therapy and exercise regimens that can help individuals maximize their capabilities, impediments can prevent people from getting the care they need.


The focus of the National MS Society’s Health Care Delivery and Policy Research program is to study the wide variety of issues that can reduce the quality of health care received by individuals with MS, with the ultimate goal of improving quality of life.


Current Health Care Deliver and Policy Research topics include:

        Quality of health care and mental health care in MS

        Accessibility and impact of disease modifying agents

        Delivery of health care to people with MS living in rural areas

        The long-term care needs of people with MS

        Evaluating MS adult day programs

        Aging with MS: unmet needs in the Great Lakes region

        Health care experiences of persons with MS from minority populations

        Insurance issues of NMSS members.