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At the Forefront: Driving Breakthroughs in Multiple Sclerosis

Multidisciplinary teams at CU Anschutz are on the precipice of changing how this mysterious disease is diagnosed and treated

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Written by Staff on March 11, 2024

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, affects several million people worldwide, with Colorado claiming one of the highest rates in the country. About one in 360 people in our state has MS, and women with the disease outnumber men by about three to one. Most often diagnosed between the ages 20 to 40, MS generally strikes patients during the prime of life.

While progress has been slow – there is no known cure and it is only since 1993 that any MS treatments have been available – our faculty have been at the center of basic research and clinical trials for decades. Our scientists seek to better understand the progressive and unpredictable disease, which scars the protective myelin sheath around nerves of the central nervous system, causing wide-ranging symptoms that can change over time.

Today, multidisciplinary teams of researchers and providers at CU Anschutz are on the precipice of great change – shaping a future in which MS is better understood, detected earlier and treated more effectively.

In just one example, researchers are seeking to better understand the disease’s origins by examining both the genetic and environmental risk factors for MS, including about 230 genes known to alter the risk of developing the condition. First-degree relatives of those with MS have a 5- to 10-fold increased risk of developing the disease. 

Ben Limmer was eager to help when he learned about the RISE-MS study led by Enrique Alvarez, MD, PhD, Teri Schreiner, MD, MPH, and RMMSC medical director John Corboy, MD, MA. Limmer is one of 200 participants taking part in MRI scans, blood work and environmental risk surveys. 

“My dad and his sister were both diagnosed with MS when I was young,” Limmer said. “We know so little about family connections relating to MS, so this was a special opportunity.”


Photo at top: Ben Limmer is pictured above, third from left, with his father, Randy, his mother, Susie, and his partner, Austin.