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Upstate universities to collaborate on MS treatment research

Innovation Trail's Kate O'Connell

A consortium of three upstate medical schools is to receive $12.1 million in funding to try to create a treatment for people living with multiple sclerosis.

Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences University of Rochester Medical Center will combine to research the currently incurable disease.

Multiple Sclerosis -- or MS -- attacks a person's central nervous system and results in a progressive range of symptoms including numbness in the limbs, paralysis and loss of vision.

MS affects more than 30,000 people in New York, and the condition is highly prevalent upstate.  Diagnosis typically occurs in adults aged between 20 and 40 years of age.

"It's a disease that's not only common, but it's specifically, and especially common at northern latitudes, for reasons that are still unclear. But the net effect of that is that upstate New York has one of the highest incidences of MS in the country," explained Dr. Steve Goldman from the University of Rochester Medical Center.

He says the consortium aims to work together to create a stem cell therapy that could halt the progression of disability in MS patients, and potentially improve their condition.

Goldman says clinical trials could start in the next three to four years, but it will be even longer before they know if their therapy could be used on a wider basis.

He says a cure for the disease would save the health care system millions of dollars each year, and improve the lives of people worldwide.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail