Tag Archives: sclerosis

MS army photo.

The worst of multiple sclerosis can be avoided or delayed with early treatment

Against multiple sclerosis, early treatment is key.

MS army photo.

Image credits U.S. Air Force / Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes.

A new study led by researchers from the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the University of Melbourne found that early treatment — particularly within five years of onset — is effective in delaying the progress of multiple sclerosis (MS). Such measures can delay progress to the second stage of the disease, which is characterized by progressive levels of physical and mental disability.

The study is the first to provide evidence that currently-available treatments can delay the progress of MS.

Preventive measures

The study used data from 1555 patients from 68 neurological clinics across 21 countries. Tomas Kalincik, Associate professor at the University of Melbourne and study co-lead author, says that the findings showcase how important proactive treatment is in dealing with MS. The research focused on patients with relapsing-remitting MS commencing or clinical monitoring between 1988-2012 with minimum 4 years’ follow-up.

“People who converted from relapsing MS to secondary progressive MS experience gradual and mostly irreversible worsening of disability,” he explained.

“Most of the therapies that we use to treat MS have no effect once people have converted to secondary progressive MS.”

Currently, more than 23,000 Australians are living with MS, the paper explains. The conversion to the secondary progressive stage of MS is characterized by worsening of physical and mental capacity. The team, therefore, argues that preventive treatment is a very powerful tool in improving the quality of life for MS patients.

“This study shows that the therapies they have been treated with for many years, significantly improve the quality of their lives over the long-term,” Kalincik said.

Patients included in the study that underwent “initial treatment with fingolimod, natalizumab, or alemtuzumab” had a reduced risk of developing second-stage MS over a 5-year period. All drugs studied here showed different results, although all were effective. For example, patients initially treated with glatiramer acetate or interferon beta had a 12% chance of conversion to secondary MS, compared to 27% for the control group. Early fingolimod treatment reduced this risk to 7% compared to 32% for controls, and natalizumab to 19% compared to 38% for controls.

Kalincik said he hopes the results will reassure both neurologists and patients with MS that the disease can be managed, and the worst of it avoided — if treatment is started in time. The findings should also help point to the optimal path for treatment, the study adds.

The paper “Association of Initial Disease-Modifying Therapy With Later Conversion to Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis” has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Photo: University of Utah Health Sciences

Mice with multiple sclerosis walk and run again after human stem cell treatment

In a feat that surprised even the scientists who made the experiment, mice disabled by a condition similar to multiple sclerosis (MS) began to walk and even run again after human stem cells had been transplanted. The findings could potentially offer new means of treating MS, a terribly disease which plagues some 2.3 million people worldwide.

Photo: University of Utah Health Sciences

Photo: University of Utah Health Sciences

Growing stem cells and new legs

University of Utah researchers first transplanted human stem cells with no particular beneficial expectations. The scientists thought the stem cells would be rejected in the first place, like most foreign cells by the host’s immune system, however something much more than this happened. The plagued mice began to walk again within a short period, 10 to 14 days, following the transplant.

“My postdoctoral fellow Dr. Lu Chen came to me and said, ‘The mice are walking.’ I didn’t believe her,” said co-senior author, Tom Lane, Ph.D., a professor of pathology at the University of Utah, who began the study with co-first author Chen at the University of California, Irvine.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially debilitating disease in which your body’s immune system eats away at the protective sheath (myelin) that covers your nerves. Damage to myelin causes interference in the communication between your brain, spinal cord and other areas of your body. This condition may result in deterioration of the nerves themselves, a process that’s not reversible.

Current treatments and drugs only concentrate on halting any of disease’s progress or ameliorating symptoms; once MS is in a later stage, it can not be reversed and there is no cure. Results from the study demonstrate the mice experience at least a partial reversal of symptoms. Immune attacks are blunted, and the damaged myelin is repaired, explaining their dramatic recovery.

“The way we made the neural stem cells turns out to be important,” said Loring, describing the reason behind the novel outcome.

The human neural stem cells send chemical signals that instruct the mouse’s own cells to repair the damage caused by MS. Experiments by Lane’s team suggest that TGF-beta proteins comprise one type of signal, but there are likely others. This realization has important implications for translating the work to clinical trials in the future.

“Rather than having to engraft stem cells into a patient, which can be challenging from a medical standpoint, we might be able to develop a drug that can be used to deliver the therapy much more easily,” said Lane.

Next, the researchers need to assess the long term effects of the human stem cell transplanted mice.

“We want to try to move as quickly and carefully as possible,” Lane continued. “I would love to see something that could promote repair and ease the burden that patients with MS have.”

Findings appeared in the journal Stem Cell Reports.