Multiple Sclerosis (Case Study)

Nov 26 2012

I always believed that they would find a cure. I didn’t necessarily believe it would be in my lifetime, whereas now I believe they will find a cure in my lifetime and I will be one of the people that will benefit… I am really excited about that prospect.

Vicki Woods

Vicki Woods is looking forward to the advancements that Hunter research can achieve.

25 years ago, as a young mother and business woman, Vicki began experiencing the first alarming signs of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While it has taken her years to grasp the nature of the debilitating illness, she has seen firsthand the improvements that have been made to her own treatment plan thanks to Hunter researchers and their worldwide colleagues.

The causes of MS are unknown but are thought to be a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors.

To help researchers work towards better treatments and ultimately a cure for the disease, Vicki became involved with HMRI. She is hopeful that results of a recent study will bring researchers one step closer to finding a cure for the unpredictable disease.

Researchers from Hunter New England Health collected blood samples for genetic information from Hunter people with and without MS, and found a number of genes that link MS to an altered immune response.

“Not everyone with these genetic variants will develop MS,” Dr Jeannette Lechner Scott said.

“In addition to a genetic predisposition to MS, it is likely that you need to encounter two or more environmental factors to trigger the onset of the disease.”

Vicki says that supporting medical research through HMRI means that she can also help researchers work towards better treatments and ultimately a cure.

“This is probably something that’s taken them that step closer and you know that a cure is inevitable,” Vicki said.

“It might surprise you to learn that it was only five years ago that I finally came to terms with MS.

“There were so many moments along the way that almost broke me. I can remember I cried the first time I walked into a public event with a crutch… I didn’t know how I was going to cope with it but I got to the point where I just had to pull myself together and get over it.

“I hope I am able to say to my grandchildren that 20 years ago I had MS and wasn’t able to walk around and enjoy life the way that I am able to enjoy it now with my grandchildren.”

Multiple Sclerosis affects 2.5 million people worldwide, including about 20,000 Australians.

Hunter researchers were involved in genome-wide screening in Australia and New Zealand of patients with MS. They found several genes that confirm that MS is linked to an altered immune response.

Researchers can now examine these genetic clues alongside environmental clues and see if they are linked. This discovery brings researchers closer to understanding MS and in time may lead to better therapies for MS, or even prevention.