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World Congress on Multiple Sclerosis Kicks Off: Young Researchers Report on MS from Around the World

World Congress on Multiple Sclerosis Kicks Off: Young Researchers Report on MS from Around the World

Nearly 5,200 clinicians, clinical researchers and basic scientists have gathered in Montreal, Quebec, from around to world to kick off the first World Congress on Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, the largest international conference on MS research and treatment in 2008. Today, young researchers from around the world were invited to showcase their MS research efforts.

MS and the Mind

Cognitiveandemotionalproblems are somewhat common in people with MS, and are a major reason why people with MS leave their jobs, or have trouble in social situations or at school. Research on how to identify and treat these problems is increasing worldwide.

• Dr. Audrey Henry (Hôpital Maison Blanche, Reims, France) and colleagues examined whether people with MS had difficulties with “theory of mind” – the ability to attribute beliefs, desires and emotions to others, and distinguish them from one’s own beliefs, desires and emotions. A group of 70 people with MS scored significantly lower on six theory of mind tests, and on a test of interpreting others’ facial expressions, than 30 controls without MS. Dr. Henry’s team believes that people with MS may experience problems with social behavior because of these deficits. (Abstract #1)

• As imaging technology leaps forward, so does the ability to pinpoint areas where MS damage may be causing cognitive problems. Kyle Kern, BS, and colleagues (University of California, Los Angeles) used high-resolution MRI to study the structure of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is important in memory processes, in 26 people with relapsing or progressive MS and 19 controls without MS. They took images while people were completing verbal memory tests and found that, unlike controls without MS, people with MS did not show normal activation patterns in the hippocampus during both learning and recall. This study was funded by a grant to Nancy Sicotte, MD, from the National MS Society. (Abstract #5)

Seeking Clues to MS

MS is notoriously unpredictable in its course. Some people experience a benign course of MS, which generally refers to individuals who have had MS for an extended period of time but whose disability continues to be very mild. There currently is no way to predict a benign course, though.

• Emilio Portaccio, MD (University of Florence) and colleagues are giving it a try. Dr. Portaccio’s team examined 63 people with benign MS (defined here as having minimal disability after having MS for at least 15 years) and followed them for approximately five additional years. They found that cognitive impairment, male gender, and tissue damage in the cortex were the main predictors that people would progress from benign MS to active disease. (Abstract #2)

Giving Repair a Boost

The central nervous system has the ability to repair itself, but these capabilities fail in people with MS. Why this happens and how to reverse it is the focus ofintense investigation.

• Jin Nakahara, MD, PhD (Keio University, Tokyo) and colleagues studied why immature brain cells that could foster repair fail to do so in MS. The team examined brain tissue from 10 people with MS and five controls obtained via autopsy. Their results show that a molecule called TIP30 may inhibit these cells. This research not only provides a clue that may help to develop repair strategies: It also highlights the value of tissue banks that collect the specimens used in such studies. (Abstract #11)

First Day Summary

The first day of the World Congress provided an early glimpse of the nearly 1,000 studies being presented here – all focused on many of the most important topics in the field of multiple sclerosis. To view the complete list, visitwww.msmontreal.organd click on “Scientific Program” and then on “Itinerary Planner”. Then follow the prompts.

Read summaries from other days of the Congress:Day 2,Day 3Day 4