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UB's JNI to Establish Pediatric MS Center

National Multiple Sclerosis Society funds 6 centers in U.S.

By Lois Baker

Release Date: January 19, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Jacobs Neurological Institute of the University at Buffalo has received a $1.8 million, five-year grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to establish at Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo one of six Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Centers of Excellence that it is creating in the United States.

MS commonly is perceived as an "adult disease" that affects young to middle-aged adults. However, diagnostic tools now reveal that 8,000-10,000 children in the U.S. have MS, which accounts for approximately five percent of those diagnosed with the disease. As many as 10,000-15,000 children may have MS symptoms.

Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, M.D., director of the Baird MS Center of The Jacobs Neurological Institute and associate professor of neurology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, will be the director of the new Pediatric MS Center of the Jacobs Neurological Institute.

"This grant builds on the legacy of Dr. Lawrence Jacobs, the UB researcher and clinician who was a pioneer in developing effective treatments that have made dramatic improvements in the lives of adults with MS.  Now UB will be able to do the same for children affected by this disease," said David L. Dunn, M.D., Ph.D., UB vice president for health sciences.

"Currently, childhood and adolescent MS is thought to be relatively uncommon, accounting for five percent of all cases. However, there is concern on the part of UB researchers and others that it may be more prevalent than previously recognized.  This new effort is one of many areas in which UB investigators seek to expand our medical knowledge base and find ways to better diagnose and treat even the most difficult conditions," Dunn added.

Western New York has one of highest rates of adult MS in the U.S., with approximately 160 diagnosed cases per 100,000 population, according to the Western New York/Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The national rate of diagnosed MS cases is approximately 50 per 100,000.

"We are very excited to collaborate with the Pediatric MS Center of the Jacobs Neurological Institute and to work together to help children and their families living with MS in our community and throughout the region," said Art Cardella, president of the chapter.

The center will treat children under 18 years of age who have MS and other central nervous system acquired demyelinating diseases. It will have three primary areas of interest: caring for children with demyelinating diseases; educating primary-care physicians and families throughout Western New York about symptoms and treatment options for pediatric MS, and advancing clinical and basic science research on pediatric MS and related demyelinating diseases.

"Many general pediatricians are not familiar with MS, particularly since they are not expecting to see it in children," said Weinstock-Guttman. "The Pediatric MS Center will provide comprehensive care and a wide range of services, including in-patient and out-patient neurological care, physical therapy and rehabilitation and family education in the child-friendly environment of Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo.

"Locating the Pediatric MS Center of the Jacobs Neurological Institute at Women & Children's Hospital aligns perfectly with our existing strength in pediatric neurosciences," said Cheryl Klass, president of Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo.

"The pediatric neurosurgeons and neurologists are strong components of our nationally recognized and comprehensive range of pediatric and surgical specialists who diagnose and care for children with MS and all other health conditions," Klass added.

The other Regional Pediatric MS Centers of Excellence are: Center for Pediatric-Onset Demyelinating Disease at the Children's Hospital of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham; National Pediatric MS Center at Stony Brook University Hospital, Stony Brook, N.Y.; Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; - Massachusetts General Hospital for Children (Boston) Partners Pediatric MS Center, and University of California, San Francisco Regional Pediatric MS Center.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.

Jacobs Neurological Institute is a comprehensive neurological care center that is proud to be a leader in the establishment of the nation's first network of Pediatric MS Centers of Excellence

Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, a Kaleida Health facility, is the regional center for comprehensive and state-of-the-art pediatric, perinatal and obstetrical services in Western New York and beyond.