MS is a very varied disease, and research into MS covers a wide range of areas including psychology, nutrition, physiotherapy and other allied health interventions, as well as the more laboratory and clinic-based research into the biology of MS.
However, at the core of all these studies are people with MS themselves. Across the whole spectrum of research, people with MS both inform the research, the questions we need to ask, and contribute to the research. People with MS can contribute to research by giving samples, giving their time in the clinic or by answering surveys and questionnaires. In all cases, after extensive research and development the final step before any research can be translated into clinical practice is a clinical trial or study. This step is vital to confirm that any developed intervention is effective and safe.
There are several possible advantages of participating in clinical trials. These can include potentially gaining access to interventions before they are widely available and receiving extra healthcare and closer monitoring. By taking part in a clinical trial, you also contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge and, in some cases, to improved health for yourself or others with the same disease or condition.
MS Research Australia hosts a website which lists trials and research studies that are currently recruiting participants in Australia and New Zealand.
One exciting trial currently underway, is a trial looking into improving balance and preventing falls in people with MS.
This home-based trial uses an electronic sensor mat placed on the floor and connected to a console and TV screen. The system is programmed to deliver different ‘games’ that involve following stepping cues presented on the TV screen and requiring coordination and thinking skills. This trial leads on from a previously successful smaller pilot study.
The earlier pilot study showed that the individuals who had received the training improved significantly in their performance on the game, showing faster and more accurate steps and increases in the difficulty level. They also showed improvements in real-world measures of balance, posture, and walking speed compared to the non-intervention group.
The research team are aiming to recruit 500 people with MS in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Hobart and Newcastle. Briefly, they are after participants who have a confirmed diagnosis of MS, are aged 18 years and over and living in the community. More details can be found on the MS trials website here.
This trial has the potential, through a rather fun and straightforward intervention, to improve the lives of people with MS by improving balance, walking speed and preventing falls. As with any therapy or intervention, scientifically testing this therapy is essential to ensure it has the expected benefits and no unexpected consequences.
To watch Professor Lord one of the lead scientists talk about the trial click here.
This is just one example of the type of trials that are listed on the MS trials website. New trials studies are added all the time so book-mark the website and check back regularly to see if there is a study that is suitable for you to participant in.