Living with MS creates a host of physical and psychosocial issues for patients, some of which we are only beginning to understand.
During an attack, MS patients like Deb Vollrath can experience inflammation in the brain. Experts have assumed that this strong immune response is damaging, but cutting-edge research by UAlberta PhD student Brienne McKenzie challenges that long-held assumption. Her project looks at how an inflammatory molecule generated by immune cells in the brain actually protects against some of the devastating neurological effects of MS in non-human models. It’s a brand new way of looking at the disease.
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When McKenzie and her team use drugs to artificially induce the brain to make more of the molecule, the resulting disease symptoms are milder. “This research suggests that the inflammatory molecules in MS are not necessarily harmful,” she says. McKenzie is planning future research to examine how to use this new information to develop and implement medical treatments that will help people living with the disease. “Ultimately, we’ll try to mimic what the body does – in the form of a drug.”
At the same time McKenzie is investigating physical effects, professor Linda Carroll at UAlberta’s School of Public Health is using her research to help people like Vollrath deal with the psychosocial effects of MS. Carroll studies factors such as pain and the coping mechanisms people develop in the face of chronic conditions. “It’s wonderful we’re working on a cure,” she says, “but we also need to be able to help people cope with MS.” McKenzie and Carroll are two of a cadre of experts working at the University of Alberta, where the high rate of multiple sclerosis in the province draws other researchers of the disease, increasing the practical impact of the MS Centre’s work. “We must not work in isolation,” Carroll says. “Working together improves the research.”
The more we know, the more we can help.
The more we help, the more we know what to ask.
We’ll keep asking. We’ll keep researching.
With your support, we will find the answers.
Help the MS Centre at the University of Albert make the difference.
$1 million supports a professorship position to advance research in understanding MS
$150,000 funds the work of a MS scientist for one year
$75,000 supports a MS fellowship, a one year post-doctoral researcher
$25,000 enables a graduate student to focus on MS research for one year
$5,000 provides funding for an undergraduate student summer project on MS