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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society Annual Research Symposium Attracts Capacity Crowd

as shared by Greater Illinois Chapter MS Society

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Fannie & Charles Penikoff Multiple Sclerosis Research Symposium Attracts Capacity Crowd in Rosemont, Illinois

19th Annual Symposium Discusses Progress and Future of MS Research

CHICAGO, Oct. 22, 2014  The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois Chapter presented its 19th Annual Fannie & Charles Penikoff Research Symposium on Saturday, Oct. 18, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. Dr. Barry Arnason, professor of neurology at the University of Chicago and the 2014 Dystel Prize for MS Research recipient, kicked off the event with a keynote address discussing the symposium’s focus: how far we’ve come and where we are going in the field of MS research.

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Dr. Barry Arnason, professor of neurology at the University of Chicago and the 2014 Dystel Prize for MS Research
Arnason began his MS research career in 1959 as one of the MS Society’s first fellows and is now an internationally-recognized leader in the field. As a founding father of neuro-immunology, he advanced understanding of basic T-cell makeup and functioning and initiated development of immune-modulating therapies in MS. His contributions earned him the 2014 Dystel Prize, a $15,000 award given jointly by the American Academy of Neurology and the MS Society.

Since its founding by Sylvia Lawry in 1946, the MS Society has invested $868 million to advancing MS research, including $50 million in the past year to support more than 380 national research projects. The research symposium, now in its 19th year, celebrates these initiatives and invites experts such as Arnason who are at the forefront of MS research to speak and answer questions about their important work in the field.

As Arnason took to the podium Saturday to address the more than 500 people in attendance, he offered valuable insight into the progress of MS research over the past couple centuries and what he hopes to accomplish in the future through his own work.

“My personal emphasis in terms of treating progressive MS has shifted to drugs that cross the blood-brain barrier,” said Arnason, describing the layer of cells around the brain’s blood vessels that prevents the passage of certain drugs that may be helpful in treating MS.

“Most of the drugs that neurologists use [cross the blood-brain barrier]. Most of the drugs used by immunologists don’t. What that suggests is that there may be new uses for old drugs in people with progressive MS that’s never been tested.”

Other research symposium speakers included Drs. Anthony Reder and Danielle Detterman from the University of Chicago, Dr. Daniel Wynn of Consultants in Neurology and Dr. Robert W. Motl from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They presented sessions on vitamin D, MS and diet, therapies in the pipeline, and exercise and MS, which ran two at a time for one hour each.

The Greater Illinois Chapter’s annual meeting took place midday, with remarks from the current board of trustees’ chair, Sean Gallagher, and the incoming board chair, Bill Gillispie. The chapter’s volunteer recognition awards ceremony honoring the hard work of volunteers and advocates in 2014 followed the annual meeting.

Volunteer honorees included the following: Phil Berger (posthumously) and family, Mike Cordes, Edward Coury, Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton, Illinois House Leader James B. Durkin, Board of Trustees Chair Gallagher, Nancy Ireland, Allen Joffe, Brandon Joffe, Hailey Joffe, Cecile Perez, Dave Perez, Johnny Perona, Jim Schallman, Laura Schallman and Jean Young as well as the Scottish Rite Masons Bike MS team, the KPMG Stompers Walk MS team, Golin Public Relations Firm and Sam’s Club.   

The event also included a health expo in the hotel’s grand ballroom entrance, which provided attendees access to helpful information on maintaining health and wellness through a showcase of different sponsor exhibitions.

For more information about this year’s event, visit MSillinois.org or call 1-800-344-4867.

Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease that interrupts the flow of information in the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. The Greater Illinois Chapter mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of more than 20,000 individuals in Illinois and 2.3 million worldwide affected by MS.


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