New research at the University of Alberta is giving hope to people suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Using $1.4 million in funding from biotechnology company Biogen Idec and the Alberta government, the Multiple Sclerosis Experimental Therapeutics Program aims to develop new tools for the early detection of multiple sclerosis (MS) and new therapies to halt and possibly reverse disability for people with the disease.
“You may not see this invisible disease that is slowly, and sometimes quickly, attacking me from the inside out,” said Julie Kendorfer, a Killam mom and rehabilitation worker who was diagnosed with MS in 2004.
“But what I can show you today is the excitement I feel for me, my family and many other people affected by this disease throughout the province that there is somebody thinking about us and taking action through research to improve our quality of life.”
Over 14,000 Albertans live with multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory disease that damages brain and spinal cord tissue which causes serious autonomic, visual, motor, and sensory problems.
MS is more prevalent in Alberta compared to the rest of Canada, said Innovation and Advanced Education Minister Don Scott, adding his ministry was happy to provide nearly $400,000 for research.
“It makes perfect sense for Albertans to make an impact on this issue because we are impacted by it in a big way…It’s an excellent investment and I think it’s going to lead to better health outcomes for Albertans.”
Dr. Fabrizio Giuliani, Associate Professor in the Division of Neurology at the U of A, said the research is aimed at learning how certain MS patients may respond to certain treatments as well as the clinical application of research where patients have the opportunity to participate.
“The experimental therapeutics program has a goal that’s related to increased discovery in the field of biomarkers for the disease, which are markers in the blood that can help us personalize or individualize treatment for patients,” he explained.
The research requires the multi-million dollar laboratories in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry for experimental therapeutics, said Giuliani, including stem cell studies where researchers can test experimental drugs on brain cells that are reproduced from a specific MS patient.
Founded in 1978, Biogen Idec is an independent biotechnology company that discovers, develops and delivers innovative therapies for the treatment of neurological diseases, hematologic conditions and autoimmune disorders.