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Advances in MS Progression and Nervous System Repair at the AAN

Blog Summary

I’ve just returned from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) meeting in Boston, where thousands of the country’s leading neurologists shared their most recent research findings. I wanted to share the exciting advances being made towards a better understanding and treatment of progressive MS and new research that is getting us closer to the repair of the nervous system and restoration of lost function...

New Rehab Techniques in Motion at the AAN Meeting

Blog Summary

I recently joined the MS Society’s research team and in this new role, I am really excited to attend my first annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Boston. I am a scientist in the field of neuroscience and rehabilitation, and while this meeting has not traditionally focused on rehabilitation, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of studies being presented that explore rehabilitation approaches and symptom management. This research area speaks to questions around how to improve a person’s wellbeing and quality of life, and it’s very close to my heart.   Here are just a few studies that caught my eye...

When Genes and the Environment Collide

Blog Summary

What happens when genes and the environment interact? This question is one of the complex pieces of the MS puzzle. More than 200 MS susceptibility genes have been identified, and the list of environmental factors linked to MS is slowly coming into focus. Of course, it’s important to remember that not everyone who develops MS has been exposed to the identified MS risk factors, and people exposed to those factors won’t necessarily develop MS. But how do genetic and environmental triggers interact to bring on MS, or make it worse? Several presentations at last week’s ACTRIMS 2017 meeting addressed these important gaps in our knowledge...

Vitamin D and Gut Bacteria: More Clues and Questions

Blog Summary

I just got back from ACTRIMS (Americas Committee for the Treatment and Research in MS), where more than 700 MS doctors and researchers shared their results, especially their work aligned with this year’s theme: Environmental Factors, Genetics, and Epigenetics in MS Susceptibility and Clinical Course. This was my first time at ACTRIMS and I found the theme and the talks really compelling. One thing that struck me is the evolving story about how specific things we all encounter in our lives interact with the “cards” (genes) we were dealt at birth. Our genes predispose us to be susceptible to various medical conditions, but that doesn’t mean we will get those conditions. In the case of MS, now there are 200 genetic variants identified that increase a person’s likelihood of getting the disease. I’m struck by how many “moving parts” seem to be involved in whether or not a person gets MS and what their MS experience and course will be...

MS Symptoms: Researchers Look for Life-Changing Breakthroughs

Blog Summary

Stopping the effects of even one MS symptom can be a life-changing breakthrough for an individual with MS. I’m encouraged by the many strategies I heard about at ECTRIMS and its companion meeting, Rehabilitation in MS (RIMS), and am hopeful that they can soon be put into action to change the lives of people with MS.Fatigue – Dr. Vincent de Groot (Vu University Medical Center, Amsterdam) reported results from three clinical trials, each testing a different strategy to see if it could lessen fatigue over 16 weeks in approximately 90 people with MS: aerobic training, cognitive behavioral therapy, and energy conservation management.  Only cognitive behavioral therapy effectively reduced severe fatigue in this short-term study. We know that psychological interventions are a part of managing fatigue, and these results certainly support that...

Research News on Secondary Progressive MS from ECTRIMS

Blog Summary

​Greetings from London, England, on the final day of the very busy ECTRIMS meeting. There have been more than 1500 research study results presented over the last few days. If anyone wants to see the depth and breadth of the research, the abstracts (summaries of conference presentations) are freely available here. Also, I hope you’ll catch other blogs by my colleagues related to HSCT, progressive MS, gut microbiome and coming up on Monday, symptoms and rehab solutions.   Beyond formal presentations, I think the best part of conferences like this one are the hallway conversations and spontaneous meetings that often lead to new collaborations and ultimately, new breakthroughs. At a conference as focused as ECTRIMS, the exchanges are, “all MS, all the time.” ...

Progressive MS at ECTRIMS: New Directions and Challenges

Blog Summary

Greetings from the second full day of the ECTRIMS2016 conference in London. Today was packed with research presentations and poster sessions, all about MS.    There are many different topics being covered at this meeting, and I’d like to focus this blog on one I’m particularly passionate about, progressive MS. A press conference yesterday hosted by the International Progressive MS Alliance, which I help lead, announced new investments of over $14 million US dollars to support three Collaborative Network Awards. These international teams were selected to accelerate the pace of research in key areas... 

From ECTRIMS: New Results on Gut Bacteria and MS

Blog Summary

The ECTRIMS meeting has been a great place to connect with researchers on what’s truly exciting in MS research. I’ve especially enjoyed hearing about an area of investigation that is moving forward quickly – from initial observations toward treatments or solutions for people with MS. From what I've heard this week, researchers who are looking at the gut microbiome and its role in the MS immune attack are doing just that.    Drs. Yan Wang, Lloyd Kasper and colleagues from Dartmouth Medical School and Eastern Washington University built on previous work, which had shown that modulating gut bacteria during MS-like disease in mice induced specific immune cells (called Bregs – or regulatory B cells), and these Bregs reduced disease severity...

ECTRIMS 2016: Bone Marrow Transplantation (HSCT)

Blog Summary

It’s nighttime here in London, England after the first full day of ECTRIMS – the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS. This meeting is the world’s largest gathering of MS researchers in the world, with more than 8,000 clinical and research professionals from across the globe, including many Society-funded researchers and fellows, meeting to share their cutting-edge research findings, to network and collaborate.   It was a jam-packed day of science!  For this blog, I want to share my impressions of a staged debate that was focused on the topic of hematopoietic (bone marrow) stem cell transplantation – HSCT for short...

How I Use My Voice for Better Care

Blog Summary

As I journey past the 30-­year mark of my life with multiple sclerosis, I am profoundly grateful for the research advances that have taken place since my diagnosis. They allow people in the MS community to hold on to hope while living with an unpredictable and incurable disease. In the dark ages of my diagnosis I felt scared and alone. With no FDA-approved medications and the internet in its infancy, I didn’t know where to turn. My world went from living color to black and white. From the angst and loneliness I felt, along with the absence of a treatment to control my disease, I became angry and frustrated. How could I possibly be proactive about my health when the medical community could only recommend I go home, rest, and call if I had a flare-up? My future looked bleak...

On the shoulders of giants

Blog Summary

My multiple sclerosis diagnosis came as a total shock. Total shock as in going to the emergency room for a follow-up to a nosebleed and leaving four hours later with Bell's Palsy, a CT scan, contrast and no-contrast MRIs, and a preliminary diagnosis of MS. No kidding, it was that fast. I have two photos in my phone as an odd sort of commemoration. They are of the ER exam room just as I saw it shortly after the doctor left the room. My life changed a few minutes before 12:51pm. At least that's what the timestamp on the photo shows. After hearing the matter-of-fact medical opinion, I sat on the examining table, smartphone in hand, furiously using Google. I wanted to learn more about the two-ton weight that just swung into my gut that left me utterly lost. I could not understand how I could have this chronic illness and display none of the stereotypical symptoms...