Saskatchewan

U of S recruits top scientist to work on MS cure

Efforts to find the cause and a cure for multiple sclerosis got a $8.4-million boost in Saskatoon.

'This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,' says Micheal Levin of $8.4M fund

As the newly appointed chair of multiple sclerosis research at the University of Saskatchewan, Michael Levin is on the hunt for the cause of the debilitating condition. (CBC News)

Efforts to find the cause of and a cure for multiple sclerosis got a $8.4-million boost in Saskatoon.

The money is being used to create a chair in MS clinical research at the University of Saskatchewan, led by newly recruited researcher Michael Levin.

I'm not sure I can end it in my tenure, but we're going to try.- Michael Levin

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What that allows me to do is to be at my most creative," Levin said Thursday, adding that an endowed chair with a guaranteed source of funding for seven years makes all the difference.

"While I'm applying for grants — which I will — I'll also have those extra funds to take a chance ... and to do a series of risky experiments, or high-risk experiments, that might actually give us the answer."

MS is neurological condition of unknown cause that results in mobility problems, muscle spasms, vision loss and other symptoms. It's believed 3,500 to 3,700 people suffer from it in Saskatchewan, perhaps the highest rate in Canada.  

Levin, who's from Tennessee, said he's devoted his adult life to finding a cure for MS and he's excited to advance his work in Saskatoon.

"I'm not sure I can end it in my tenure, but we're going to try," he said.

Levin said he will be studying MS patients closely to determine if their DNA is different from people who don't have MS.

Levin will lead a team of researchers that includes Katherine Knox, whose research focuses on MS and mobility, and Valerie Verge, whose research focuses on nerve injury and repair mechanisms. Both are U of S College of Medicine researchers.

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