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Restoring What's Been Lost

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Just a few short years ago, there was little belief that nervous system repair was even possible. Through the Society’s tireless efforts and multi-million dollar funding, there is not just belief, but a whole new field that has emerged to pursue strategies to repair the nervous system and restore function to people with MS.

Potential cell therapies and myelin repair strategies are now in clinical trials, and creative new rehabilitation strategies and symptom management techniques are being explored to maximize abilities and to treat troubling symptoms.

We are making significant progress in restoring function to people with MS, particularly in our priority areas of nervous system repair and lifestyle/wellness:

  • In a small, phase II clinical trial, the oral antihistamine clemastine modestly improved transmission of electrical signals in people with MS who had optic nerve damage. The improvement indicates that myelin was repaired along the nerve pathways. Clemastine was identified through innovative preclinical research conducted by National MS Society-funded Jonah Chan, PhD, who went on to become first recipient of the Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research for this pioneering work.
  • A clinical trial showed that a specific type of memory training improved memory and brain activity (as observed on MRI scans) in people with MS and improvements were maintained at six-month follow-up. The Society is funding this team in other research on restoring cognitive function.
  • Experts convened for the International Conference on Cell-Based Therapy for MS, held under the auspices of the International Advisory Committee on Clinical Trials in MS – a group jointly sponsored by the National MS Society and the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis. Recommendations were developed to help speed the development of new cell-based treatment solutions.
  • Two teams of researchers funded in part by the National MS Society reported success in stimulating the repair of nerve-insulating myelin in mouse models of MS: Administering nerve stem cells to mice with MS-like disease reduced inflammation, decreased myelin damage, and increased myelin repair; and targeting a signaling molecule on immature myelin-making cells in mice enhanced myelin repair.
  • A National MS Society-supported clinical trial at the University of Washington is testing whether aerobic exercise or stretching and toning can improve thinking speed in 125 people with MS who have experienced subtle cognitive changes.
  • The Society is partnering with the University of Miami and Accera, Inc. to test novel “Medical Food” for MS cognitive impairment.
  • The Society invested in commercial therapy development programs through Fast Forward, focusing on novel therapies to protect the nervous system from MS damage and/or stimulate myelin repair. These include Bionure’s BN201, a small molecule that promotes neuroprotection and remyelination, Kadimastem’s stem cell-based medical solution for people with progressive forms of MS, and New York University School of Medicine’s small molecule inhibitors of a transcription factor, known as Gli1, which is believed to be involved in myelin repair.

But more must be done to give back what has been lost. We must find ways to repair the damage that’s been done through nervous system repair, including myelin repair, and help people regain function through rehabilitation and both physical and cognitive therapies. Here’s how:

  • Understand how nerves and myelin work normally, and stimulate repair
  • Aggressively pursue clinical trials of new cell therapies and other therapeutic approaches to rebuild the nervous system
  • Ensure that innovative rehabilitation techniques are developed to maximize function, and develop better ways to reduce MS symptoms, including psychosocial symptoms
  • Provide data on optimal health care delivery and policy to fuel advocacy efforts to improve quality of care and quality of life

Read more about our successes and goals for restoring function to people with MS.

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