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Thursday, April 18, 2019

New High-Risk Pilot Projects Explore Probiotics, Virtual Reality, Repairing MS Damage, And Other Novel Solutions For People Affected By MS


April 12, 2019

SUMMARY
  • The National MS Society has just committed funding for 14 high-risk pilot research grants to quickly test novel ideas, as part of a $24.4-million commitment to 64 new MS research and training projects focused on stopping MS, restoring what’s been lost, and ending MS forever. Additional research studies will be funded throughout the year as part of a comprehensive research program that will support 340 new and ongoing research projects in 2019 alone.
  • Pilot grants are designed to quickly answer novel questions for people affected by MS, including: Can cholesterol-like molecules enhance myelin repair and restore function? Can we stop MS in its tracks by altering the gut microbiome? Can understanding more about the experience of MS in Zambia help to end the disease? Download a list of new pilot projects
  • The Pilot Research Grants program is one way that the Society maintains a diverse research portfolio that includes short- and long-term investments, balances risks and rewards, and funds research globally, in line with our Research Priorities and commitment to supporting pathways to a cure for MS.
DETAILS
The National MS Society has just committed more than $750,000 to fund 14 high-risk pilot grants to quickly answer novel questions, as part of a $24.4-million commitment to 64 new research and training projects focused on stopping MS, restoring what’s been lost, and ending MS forever. Additional pilot studies will be funded throughout the year as part of a comprehensive research program that will support 340 new and ongoing research projects in 2019 alone.

Before investigators can get funding to test a cutting-edge research idea, they need to generate the first bit of data to prove their ideas are worth pursuing. Pilot grants allow researchers to gather preliminary data so they can apply for longer-term funding – or put the idea to rest. The grant provides one year of funding. This program is one way that the Society maintains a diverse research portfolio that includes short- and long-term investments, balances risks and rewards, and funds research globally. A survey of previous Society pilot grant recipients indicated that 90% agreed the funding was impactful to their research program.
Here are summaries of a few of the new pilot projects to which the Society has made commitments:
  • Clues to repairing myelin: MS symptoms result from damage to brain and spinal cord tissues, including the loss of myelin that wraps around and supports nerve cells. Drew Adams, PhD (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland) and his team recently reported that myelin repair can be promoted by cholesterol-like molecules. Now they are exploring how these molecules act to enhance myelin repair, by using advanced technology to obtain data on thousands of proteins that may interact with these molecules. They hope to uncover new targets for the development of novel therapeutics that promote myelin repair to improve function in people with MS.
  • Prebiotics vs. Probiotics for MS: Excess inflammation associated with MS disease activity in the brain and spinal cord may in part be due to changes in the gut microbiome – millions of bacteria that live in the intestines. Rebecca Straus Farber, MD (Columbia University, New York) is leading an effort to evaluate the potentially beneficial effect of two strategies in people with MS: prebiotics (high fiber foods that act as food for bacteria) and probiotics (live microorganisms that can maintain or improve gut bacterial composition). These strategies are being compared in terms of their effects on gut bacteria content, immune system impacts, and quality of life. Results of the study, if confirmed by larger trials, could potentially identify a  dietary supplement that could reduce disease activity and symptoms.
  • Virtual reality to reduce pain: Pain is one of the most common symptoms in MS and often leads to disability and reduced quality of life. Leigh Charvet, PhD (New York University Langone Medical Center) and colleagues are testing whether virtual reality devices can reduce pain. Virtual reality refers to the experience of wearing a headset that allows the user to view a video or interactive space in 360° that moves as the user moves. Recently, programmers have created guided experiences that are specifically designed to distract users from pain. This small clinical trial involving people with MS who have pain will determine if this new technique has potential to reduce this troubling symptom of MS.
  • Improving balance: Balance problems are a commonly experienced by people with MS, and may lead to a higher risk of falling during everyday activities. Richard Van Emmerik, PhD (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and colleagues are testing two methods of addressing balance: tai chi (deep breathing, relaxation, and slow, gentle movements) and mindfulness meditation training (mental training that involves focusing your mind on your experiences in the present moment). Both are considered safe and can be practiced for a lifetime. This team is comparing them in an 8-week study to determine which might lead to greater improvements in physical balance and balance confidence in people with MS, and whether benefits remain after a period of not practicing.
  • Continue reading

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Article Provided by:  #MSViewsandNews
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