An eclectic range of stars including Sir Chris Hoy, Professor Colin Pillinger, Lorraine Kelly and former Manchester United footballer Danny Wallace have signed up to a letter calling for more funding for multiple sclerosis (MS) research to mark the start of MS Week (27 April to 4 May).

The letter - backed by the MS Society and published in today's Daily Telegraph - draws attention to the devastating impact of MS and calls for greater funding for research. The MS Society is the UK's largest charitable funder of MS research and spent more than £7million on research last year.

The range of signatories shows the diversity of people affected by MS, ranging from Olympic and Paralympic Gold Medallists, planetary scientist Colin Pillinger (the man behind the Beagle 2 Mars lander) and Chris Donald, co-founder of Viz magazine.

Sir Chris Hoy said: "My Grandmother was Chairperson of MS Scotland in the 1980s and received an MBE for her work with the Society, so I know how important it is for people to understand the effects of MS to help tackle misconceptions. I would encourage everyone to find out more about what multiple sclerosis really means and the effect it can have on people's lives."

TV presenter Lorraine Kelly said: "As I have a relative with MS, I know from personal experience that there are myths and misconceptions which make life even tougher for people living with the condition. I would urge everyone to make an effort to find out what MS really means to those who have to live with it day in and day out."

The letter as published is:
MS needs more research
SIR - As victims of multiple sclerosis (MS) or individuals closely linked to someone afflicted by this devastating neurological condition, we would like to draw attention to MS Awareness Week, which starts today.

Anyone having MS can suffer from an enormous number of disorders: inability to stand or walk, loss of balance, and tremor being some of the most obvious. Less apparent are loss of vision, slurred speech, difficulty in holding things, pins and needles, numbness, perpetually cold feet and hands, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, drowsiness and fatigue.

These symptoms can lead to frustration, irritability and depression. On top of everything comes unrelenting pain. The brain thinks a part of the body has been hurt. That it hasn't is immaterial: the pain is just as excruciating and cannot be relieved by drugs because it isn't there.

The majority grin and bear it and hope a cure will be found, or at least a way of arresting the deterioration in their quality of life will emerge. Drugs only have some effect in the very early stages of MS; there are none that convince the brain there isn't an actual injury.

Medical advances are needed to repair the nervous system. Stem cells are one vital area to be investigated. There are enormous deficiencies in our knowledge. To answer them requires more research.

MS Society