UConn looking for MS patients for on-going study

Research file photo

FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH)– There is promising research for patients with multiple sclerosis. The on-going study at UConn Health Center is looking for more people with MS to sign up.

Unlocking the cause for auto-immune diseases like Mutiple Sclerosis has proved challenging. But millions of dollars of research funding from the National MS Society has led UConn researchers to discover a strong link that could affect treatment.

It’s in the UConn Health Center laboratory, where research scientist Dr. Robert Clark and his team are studying the role of gastro-intestinal bacteria in auto-immune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, which attacks the central nervous system.

“Can the bacteria in the GI Tract affect diseases like this?” said Clark.

In a small study comparing blood samples of MS patients with a control group, the lead investigator found a link.

“This is a group of typical bacteria that we believe that are in the gastrointestinal tract,” said Clark.

While the bacteria was common to both the levels of a certain molecule it secretes were not.

“In 17 out of 17 MS patients, all of them had very low levels of this molecule,” said Clark.

In animal studies they found even more significant findings.

bacteria UConn looking for MS patients for on going study

“We found that in fact, it quieted and controlled the disease significantly,” said Clark.

The next step could replacing the molecule or the bacteria to make more of it be likely targets for treating MS?

Dr. Clark says he can not move forward until the data is confirmed in a much larger study.

“We have some very exciting findings that you guys will be a part of, we hope,” said Clark.

MS patients, advocates and good friends Anita Towhill and Pam Greenberg are signing up.

“We met at a seminar on MS,” said Towhill.

“I had pain in my joints that would move to different joints, general stiffness,” said Greenberg.

Both were in their early 50’s when they were diagnosed. Anita was a registered nurse.

“I had no clue and I took care of people with MS and I knew what it was about,” said Towhill.

What Dr. Clark has identified could potentially change the direction in the treatment of MS.

“You’re helping us to have hope,” said Towhill.

“Even if it can’t help me now, maybe it can help future generations,” said Greenberg.

Researchers like Dr. Clark depend on funding. The upcoming Walk MS is Saturday, April 5th and Sunday, April 6th. It raises money for that, as well as financial support and much needed programs for the 6,000 people living with MS in our state.

There are 12 sites across Connecticut. For more information on the study, call 860-679-2179.  For more on the walk, click here.

News 8’s Darren Kramer is the Grand Marshall for the walk.


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