Researchers look at Canadian children to uncover the triggers of MS
May 4, 2004
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
A ground-breaking study announced today may identify the key triggers which cause multiple sclerosis (MS). This global-first, $4.3-million study of MS in children will provide unique insights into the disease that affects an estimated 50,000 Canadians. The MS Scientific Research Foundation and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announced funding today for this cross-Canada research project. This is the first of several activities in May, MS Awareness Month.
This study will attempt to answer two important questions: what is the cause of MS and what is the risk of developing MS after one attack.
“The risk of developing MS after an initial attack of the immune system on the brain or spinal cord is currently unknown. We do not know the key triggers of the MS disease process, nor do we know how these triggers interact with an individual’s immune system,” said Dr. Brenda Banwell, lead study investigator and director of the Hospital for Sick Children’s Paediatric MS Clinic in Toronto. “My colleagues and I are extremely hopeful this work will help us understand the disease at its onset, benefiting both children and adults with MS.”
This five-year project, taking place in 22 Canadian hospitals, will study children who have experienced an initial attack, known as clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). Some, but not all of these children will go on to develop MS. Researchers will follow these children closely in order to determine features associated with risk of a second (MS-defining) attack. Studying children from the time of the first attack allows researchers to explore the biological factors involved in the very beginning of the MS disease process. Researchers hope that these studies will identify the factors involved in the development of MS.
“When my son Scott was diagnosed with MS at eight years old, my husband and I were scared and overwhelmed. No one could tell us why he got the disease or how it would affect him as he grew older,” said Kelly Kalbfleisch, whose son is now 16 years old. “I’m happy to know this study may answer those questions and help other families affected by the disease.”
“This is a very significant study for all those touched by the disease. The Foundation is proud to fund this ground-breaking research project,” said Alexander R. Aird, chair of the MS Scientific Research Foundation and former chair of the MS Society of Canada.
Funding for this unique study and many other MS projects is made possible through MS Society of Canada fund raising activities like the MS Carnation Campaign currently underway and the upcoming RONA MS Bike Tours. The MS Society is a leader in providing funding for innovative research and vital services for people with MS and their families. The MS Scientific Research Foundation receives almost all of its funding from the MS Society of Canada.
MS is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. MS can occur at any age. It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, when people are finishing school, building careers and establishing families. It has been diagnosed in children as young as three. With an estimated 50,000 people living with the disease and three more diagnosed each day, Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.
Paediatric Study Summary
This study, following children with CIS for five years, will have clinical applicability to children and adults with the disease.
There are three key components of the study:
Researchers will determine if a particular combination of symptoms in a child with CIS is more likely to lead to MS. This will help to determine whether a child is at high risk of developing MS and whether treatment with available drug therapies should begin.
The study will look closely at the immune system of children with CIS. Researchers will attempt to find out if there is something unique about the structure or composition of brain and spinal cord white matter that somehow “sets off” the immune system attack.
The study will enable researchers to study children with CIS, look closely at possible patterns of damage in the brain and spinal cord, and determine if certain patterns can predict who will go on to develop MS.
The MS Society of Canada and the MS Scientific Research Foundation are the largest funders of MS research in Canada. The MS Society raises funds to support research and services almost entirely through individual and corporate donations and fund raising events across the country.
May is MS Awareness Month. In May, MS Society chapters and volunteers in communities across the country will be raising awareness about the disease and raising funds for ongoing research and services.
Founded in 1948, the MS Society has a membership of 28,000, with seven regional divisions and nearly 120 chapters. Besides funding MS research, the MS Society also provides services for people with MS, family members and caregivers. The MS Society also offers a unique support network for children and teenagers with MS and their parents.
The MS Scientific Research Foundation was established in 1973. It supports
large cooperative multi-disciplinary research projects that are beyond
the scope of the MS Society’s regular granting program.
Copyright © 2004, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada