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Q: What's coming up on Illinois Multiple Sclerosis Research Day?

A: The conference, set for April 16 at the I Hotel and Conference Center, is intended to bring together MS researchers at the University of Illinois, faculty and students, clinicians, pharmaceutical representatives and people living with MS.

The event will showcase MS research going on at the UI and officially announce the formation of the Illinois MS Research Collaborative, according to UI kinesiology and community health Professor JACOB SOSNOFF.

Over the past five years, the UI has brought in more than 20 grants — worth more than $8 million — for MS research involving many hundreds of patients, Sosnoff said.

"There's a group of about 10 of us who do MS-related work on campus," he said.

One of the research projects Sosnoff has undertaken — and which is still recruiting more participants — involves virtual reality training for people with MS who struggle with mobility and have a fear of falling when they face obstacles as they're out and around, he said.

The goal of this research is to enhance motor and cognitive function through the use of virtual reality.

Walking in the real world includes distractions, such as a child approaching on a bicycle, as opposed to walking on a treadmill, Sosnoff said.

Study participants are being randomly assigned to two groups, one with just treadmill training and one with treadmill training plus virtual reality.

The keynote speaker at the upcoming conference will be KATHLEEN ZACKOWSKI, senior director of patient management, care and rehabilitation research at the National MS Society.

Zackowski will speak about the organization's research priorities and the future direction of MS research.

A study released by that organization earlier this month found nearly 1 million adults in the U.S. are living with MS, more than previously believed.

Researchers don't know if that necessarily means MS is on the rise, the group said.

According to a fact sheet about the research: "Since solid information on the number of people being diagnosed with MS has not been available, it has been difficult to tell whether more people are getting MS or if the total number is just a reflection of overall population growth, better diagnostic procedures, the availability of disease modifying drugs or other changes in the MS landscape.