It is often difficult to learn of new research in multiple sclerosis. The veil of secrecy seems to be draped over new drug trials and until a new treatment is through phase III trials, we don’t hear much about it. There is some valid reasoning behind this like not promoting false hope or disseminating inaccurate and unproven information. However I believe there is also a lack in the sharing of information not only between researchers but with neurologists and other medical establishments. I guess researchers want to keep the glory for themselves if there happens to be a breakthrough in something.
I believe Canada is well renowned for our work in MS research and advancements but I recently learned of an ensuing lack of researchers in MS due to fewer young scientists willing to focus their career on MS and the nearing retirement of many researchers. Fortunately this has been recognized and a new campaign designed to recruit and train a new generation of researchers has been established named endMS.ca. The MS Society of Canada plays a critical role in this kind of foresight and proactive work.
The MS Society also just recently announced over $9 million in funding grants and research scholarships. One study to gain funding is focused on the injection of adult stem cells into mice that have exhibited demyelination and MS characteristics in an effort to show repair of damaged myelin. While I commend the MS Society and the researchers who are beginning to investigate stem cells and MS, I believe it is something that should have been high on our research priorities years ago. Fortunately East Asian countries have been researching for years and stem cell science is driving the biotech boom. In Singapore the government built “Biopolous” is home to some of the largest biotech companies and this hi-tech hub is attracting scientists from around the world. The Chinese government expects biotechnology to generate 60% of economic growth by 2020.
Ever since I became aware of the possibilities of stem cell treatments in the mid to late nineties thanks mostly to the exposure created by Michael J. Fox, I have felt the answer to MS and many other diseases would be found in stem cell research. I believe there is great progress being made but more cooperation and collaboration is needed between all research bodies. A good beginning to this cooperation was started in July, 2008 when over 300 of China’s top stem cell biologists and researchers from around the globe shared their latest results and held China’s first ever symposium on advanced induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell research during the first annual Stem Cell Technology Forum at the China Medical City complex in Taizhou, China. Some of the world’s most respected researchers presented their latest laboratory findings and clinical trial results in using stem cells to treat common ailments like heart disease and nervous system diseases such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, and optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH). Biologists attending the forum came from leading research centers in nearly all of China’s major cities, and as far away as the United States, Canada, India, Australia, and Malaysia. The event was hosted by Beike Biotechnology which is the company responsible for my treatment in China.
There are already many successful medical treatments attributed to stem cell transplants and with continued collaboration between the world’s best scientists, I believe many cures are coming soon!