Benchmark Agency has personal link to MS Walk
Benchmark Reporting Agency has a personal investment in participating in the National Walk for Multiple Sclerosis May 1. CEO and Partner Aimee Goldberg has suffered the debilitating effects of MS for over 20 years.
First diagnosed at 24 years old, Aimee’s initial symptoms have become life altering. She is one of nearly 400,000 people in the U.S. searching for the right treatment to cure or halt progress of the disease which shows itself in loss of mobility, sensory feeling, eyesight, bladder control, memory and speech.
Research leads to new treatments and much of the funds needed for research come directly from thousands of participants nationwide who join the MS Walk annually, doing their part to reach a cure. Benchmark Reporting Agency has supported the Christopher & Banks Twin Cities MS Walk for the past 10 years.
Last year Team Benchmark’s 53 walkers raised $15,000 for the cause: research, family programs, medication, counseling services and medical equipment for those living with MS. Since 2007, Benchmark has raised $111,362 through MS Walks.
“Mobility is only one of the many issues that I deal with every day, but it is the only symptom that people can see,” said Aimee. “There are many symptoms of MS and every person experiences the disease differently.”
MS is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body attacks itself, specifically the myelin sheath that protects the nerves in the brain, optical orbits and spinal cord. Its cause is unknown, more common in women than men, and it strikes young.
In the past few years, research and clinical trials involving stem cell transplants have shown encouraging results in disability scores for volunteers. A procedure called autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has been used to “reboot” the immune system, holding much promise for halting aggressive relapsing remitting MS.
In HSCT, stem cells from a person’s own bone marrow or blood are stored and the rest of the patient’s immune cells are depleted by chemotherapy, radiation or both. The stored stem cells are then reintroduced by infusion into the vein. The new stem cells migrate to the bone marrow and eventually produce new cells, repopulating the body with immune cells that hopefully will no longer attack myelin.
Pivotal work has been done with Dr. Richard Burt at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital in a clinical trial of the HSCT procedure, revealing that half the study volunteers showed improvement in their disability scores.
Since not everyone with MS is a candidate for HSCT, other forms of stem cell therapy are being explored where an individual’s immune cells are not destroyed or replaced. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and the Tisch MS Center are testing the effect of using mesenchymal stem cells also obtained from the patient’s own bone marrow or blood. Unlike HSCT, however, the cells are multiplied in the lab and reintroduced in large numbers into the body to repair damage to the central nervous system and other organs and tissues.
Exploring the potential of all types of regenerative cell therapies is supported by the MS Society, the largest private funder of MS research in the world. Since its inception in 1988, MS Walks nationally have raised over $920 million to pursue ongoing research in restoring body function.
“I have lived with MS for almost 24 years,” said Aimee. “And I’m still walking! It is certainly not the type of walk you see strutting down the runway, but I can move with the help of my cane. I may be less than graceful, but I am still moving forward.”
For more information about the MS Walk and volunteer opportunities, visit walkms.org.
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