MS research continues to grow around the country and world. Below are some of the recent national highlights:
Ampyra - The FDA recently approved Ampyra for its success in improving walking abilities for individuals with various progressions of MS. Ampyra signifies the first treatment specifically designed to treat an MS-specific symptom. It works by blocking specific pores on the surface of nerve fibers. Therapeutically blocking these channels helps propagation of nerve impulses which can help individuals walk better. Learn more.
CCSVI - New research by Dr. Paolo Zamboni may have determined a link between MS and chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI). He found a higher prevalence of CCSVI in MS patients when compared to healthy controls. CCSVI prevents blood from properly draining the brain and spinal cord. This can cause a back flow of blood into the brain which can result in inflammation seen during an MS attack. The connection with CCSVI needs further investigation, as Dr. Zambonui commented himself. A large scale clinical trial is underway in Buffalo, New York with the aim of evaluating the prevalence of venous obstruction in people with MS. Learn more.
Fingolimod - Positive results from two large-scale phase III clinical trials of oral fingolimod have shown it significantly reduced multiple sclerosis relapse rates. One of the trials also suggested it could slow the progression of disability. This drug represents the first oral disease modifying therapeutic for the treatment of MS. Fingolimod prevents damaging cells from leaving the lymph nodes and reaching the brain and spinal cord. Learn more.
Marijuana - The National MS Society is currently funding new research for the use of marijuana as a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis. Prior research has not yet provided confirming evidence for a reasonable risk:benefit ratio for its use in MS. New Jersey recently passed a law allowing chronically ill patients access to marijuana for medical purposes. Although NJ is the fourteenth state to pass such a law, it is among the first on the East Coast. The law is stricter than most, only permitting marijuana use as a treatment option for specific conditions. Multiple sclerosis is one of the few approved conditions. Learn more.
Stem Cell Therapy - Ohio investigators are recruiting individuals to participate in a study to determine the tolerance and effectiveness of “autologous hematopoietic (blood cell-producing) stem cell transplantation.” This procedure has been used in attempts to “reboot” the immune system. Adult stem cells (derived from the patient’s own bone marrow or blood) are extracted and stored, while the remainder of the patient’s immune cells is destroyed by chemotherapy. The stored stem cells are reintroduced via injection and eventually repopulate the body with the new immune cells. The hope of this still experimental procedure is that the new immune cells will no longer attack myelin or other brain tissue, allowing the patient to have a completely new immune system. Learn more.
Vitamin D - For the first time, researchers have found evidence of a direct interaction between vitamin D and a common genetic variant, which increases the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. This common genetic variant, shared among MS patients, comes from a region on chromosome six that helps dictate immune responses. Past research has hinted at a connection between vitamin D deficiency and MS but this is the first study to find a direct link. The researchers found that proteins activated by vitamin D in the body bind to a particular DNA sequence lying next to the MS-common variant, in effect switching on the gene. Thus, vitamin D deficiency may lead to lowered expression of this gene, in turn altering immune processes that ultimately trigger the immune attack on the brain and spinal cord in MS. Learn more.