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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

University of Southampton receives charity grant to help improve the lives of people with multiple sclerosis (MS)

Published: 12 September 2013

Thanks to a £40,000 grant from the MS Society Health Sciences researchers at the University of Southampton have begun a study to see if a unique technological device can help people with MS gain more control over their arm movement and function.

The project, led by Dr Ann-Marie Hughes and research fellow Trish Sampson, are using a special device called SAIL. This clever piece of technology combines robot machines to help improve arm movement and functional electrical stimulation (FES) which activates the nerves in the arm with electrical currents.

Whilst some people with MS already use robot machines and FES independently, SAIL carefully controls the amount of FES people receive so that they get exactly the right amount to help them achieve the task they are trying to practice.

Many people with MS experience weakness in their arms which can make it difficult for them to move or lift things. One of those people is Lucy Coggin, aged 40 from Lymington, and a member of the Lymington branch of the MS Society.

Lucy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) four years ago and is one of five people taking part in this study who all experience some form of arm weakness. The participants are attending 18 one hour sessions over two months where they practise arm exercises while using the SAIL device.

Around the time Lucy was diagnosed she lost most of the feeling down her right side: “Because I can’t feel my arm I don’t necessarily know what it’s doing. I’ve been known to carry round a pile of socks in my right hand because I can’t feel them. It’s like I’ve forgotten I have a right arm and have to think about using it. I was finding it quicker and less frustrating to do things with my left arm instead of persevering with my slow right hand.

“I think the trial is doing me some good and it’s only halfway through. It’s vital that research like this is done. I’m only 40 but I feel washed up. I don’t work anymore because I don’t have much arm movement but I could have a part-time job.”

Dr Ann-Marie Hughes and Trish Sampson say: “Being able to use your arm and hand is incredibly important for everyday things like washing and dressing, allowing us to remain as independent as possible. In addition to this it helps us be creative through playing an instrument, drawing or writing, and helps us to express emotion, for example, being able to put our arm around a pet or friend.

“If successful this project could potentially lead to a new treatment to give people with MS better control of their arm movements. We are delighted with the enthusiasm our participants have shown towards this research which would not be possible without their support. We’re also grateful to the MS Society who helped to fund this project.”

Notes for editors

The MS Society
The MS Society is the leading UK charity for the 100,000 people living with multiple sclerosis. Most people are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.

We’re fighting to improve treatment and care to help people with MS take control of their lives. And with generous support from our donors and fundraisers, we’re funding research to help us beat MS for good.

For more information go to:

  • The MS Society is the leading national charity for people with MS (
  • We’re funding research and fighting for better treatment and care to help people with MS take back control. We’ve already made important breakthroughs, and we’re now at the start of a generation of MS research that holds incredible promise
  • 100,000 people live with multiple sclerosis in the UK
  • Most people are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s
  • MS affects almost three times as many women as men
  • MS can get steadily worse, or remain unpredictable throughout your life – one day you can be fine, the next you might lose your sight or be unable to move
  • We have a freephone helpline - 0808 800 8000

For press enquiries contact Andrea Lisher, Press Officer, MS Society: 020 8438 0840. For out of hours or urgent enquiries: 07909 851401

The University of Southampton
The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities.

With over 23,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover well in excess of £435 million, the University of Southampton is acknowledged as one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres including the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Web Science Trust and Doctoral training Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute and is a partner of the National Oceanography Centre at the Southampton waterfront campus.

For further information contact:

Becky Attwood , Media Relations, University of Southampton, Tel: 023 8059 5457, email:

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