WEST ORANGE, NJ -- The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has committed over $25 million to support an expected 60 new MS research projects, as well as 7 MS clinical training awards. These are part of a comprehensive strategy aimed at stopping MS, restoring function that has been lost, and ending the disease forever – for every single person with MS.

Almost $500,000 of these funds are allocated for scientists in the northern New Jersey area.

In West Orange, Helen Genova, PhD, and Jean Lengenfelder, PhD, of Kessler Foundation in West Orange received a grant of $479,784.  Drs. Genova and Lengenfelder are testing a strategy aimed at improving emotional processing abilities in individuals with MS.  “Without the support of the National MS Society, we would not be able to pursue these critical leads,” said Dr. Helen Genova, lead investigator of this clinical trial. 

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This financial commitment is the latest in the Society’s relentless research efforts to move us closer to a world free of MS, and part of a projected investment of $54 million in 2016 alone to support more than 380 new and ongoing studies around the world.  The Society pursues all promising paths, while focusing on priority areas including progressive MS, nervous system repair, gene/environmental risk factors and wellness and lifestyle.

Just a few of the new cutting-edge research projects include an ambitious project at Harvard and the University of California, San Francisco that tracks a group of people with MS over time and creates a platform to enable researchers worldwide to identify factors that drive MS progression; a clinical trial in Germany and the U.S. testing an online program to treat MS-related depression to increase wellness; a study at Ohio State University looking at whether low vitamin D in early life increases the risk of developing MS; and a Collaborative MS Center at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota focusing on whether abnormal energy production in nerve cells contributes to nerve degeneration, and strategies to correct it in MS. The Society is also launching 7 clinical training awards to increase the number of MS specialists who can provide the highest quality of care to people with MS. 

“The comprehensive nature of these new research investments is very exciting, and intended to answer questions that address the unmet needs of people with MS,” noted Lisa Gallipoli, President of the Society’s New Jersey Metro Chapter.  

Multiple sclerosis disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the body.  Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. In New Jersey, MS affects more than 14,000 families.  Worldwide, over 2.3 million people live with the unpredictable challenges of multiple sclerosis. 

“We are funding scientific breakthroughs that will propel the knowledge we need to end MS and identify everyday solutions that change the lives of people with all forms of the disease,” says Gallipoli.

To find the best research with the most promise, the National MS Society relies on more than 130 world-class scientists who volunteer their time to carefully evaluate hundreds of proposals every year.  This rigorous evaluation process assures that Society funds fuel research that delivers results in the shortest time possible. 

There are FDA-approved therapies that can impact the underlying disease course in people with the more common forms of MS.  However, none of these can stop progression or reverse the damage to restore function.  National MS Society-funded research paved the way for existing therapies – none of which existed just several decades ago – and continues to be a driving force of MS research.

Download summaries and details about the new research awards.

Regarding Drs. Genova and Lengenfelder’s project:

Recent research suggests that some individuals with MS have difficulty with emotional processing -- specifically, impairments in recognizing emotions from an individual’s facial expressions. This can lead to issues in social functioning and difficulty in interpersonal relationships. For this reason, finding ways to improve emotional processing in MS may lead to better social functioning at home, in the community, and the workplace, and greater quality of life.

Dr. Genova and her team are examining the effects of an intervention aimed at improving emotional processing abilities in individuals with MS. The intervention consists of a computerized program aimed at improving facial affect recognition, and interactive training that uses examples of the individual’s own emotional experiences. This method has been shown to be useful in the team’s previous small pilot study in people with MS, and it has also been shown to help people with other disorders. Now they are enrolling 50 subjects with relapsing-remitting MS who will be randomly assigned to either a treatment group that will receive the emotional processing intervention for 12 sessions, or a control group that will undergo inactive sessions.

Researchers at Kessler Foundation are testing a strategy aimed at improving emotional processing abilities in individuals with MS. This study may provide important evidence to show that this strategy can be a solution for improving social functioning and quality of life for people with MS.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms vary from person to person and range from numbness and tingling, to walking difficulties, fatigue, dizziness and pain, to depression, blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million worldwide.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The Society mobilizes people and resources so that everyone affected by multiple sclerosis can live their best lives as we stop MS in its tracks, restore what has been lost and end MS forever. 

To fulfill this mission, the Society funds cutting-edge research, drives change through advocacy, facilitates professional education, collaborates with MS organizations around the world, and provides services designed to help people with MS and their families move their lives forward. Last year alone, through our comprehensive nationwide network, the Society devoted $122.2 million to help more than one million individuals connect to the people, information and resources they need. To move closer to a world free of MS, the Society also invested $54 million to support more than 380 new and ongoing research projects around the world.

Early and ongoing treatment with an FDA-approved therapy can make a difference for people with multiple sclerosis. Learn about your options by talking to your health care professional and contacting the National MS Society at nationalMSsociety.org or 1-800-344-4867.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that improves cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.