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New Study Links Obesity to MS, and to Worse Treatment Responses in Children and Teens

SUMMARY:

In a new study from Germany of 453 children and teens with MS, compared with more than 14,000 children without MS, those who were overweight or obese had twice the risk of developing MS, compared with non-overweight children.

They also had significantly more relapses on treatment with first-line treatments, and increased use of second-line treatment. Otherwise, there was no association found between obesity and disease activity, imaging scans, EDSS progression, or other measures.

These findings need to be confirmed with further study. It is important to note that not everyone who is obese during adolescence will develop MS, and also that many people develop MS without having been obese during adolescence.

The team (Brenda Huppke, MD, Peter Huppke, MD, and colleagues at University Medical Center Göttingen, Germany) published their findings in JAMA Neurology (posted online July 15, 2019)
DETAILS
Background: Several risk factors, including genes, exposure to infections, and environmental factors, have been identified as increasing a person’s susceptibility to developing multiple sclerosis. In addition, there is a growing body of evidence that childhood/adolescent obesity can increase the risk of developing MS. In one study, being overweight or obese was associated with an increased risk of developing MS or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS, a first clinical episode suggestive of MS, indicating increased MS risk) in girls, in a study that compared 75 children or teens with MS or CIS with the health records of more than 900,000 healthy children or teens.

Additional research is needed to understand this association. It is important to note that not everyone who is obese during adolescence will develop MS, and also that many people develop MS without having been obese during adolescence.

The Study: The researchers reviewed the medical records of 453 children and adolescents with relapsing-remitting MS. They looked at disease activity captured on imaging scans; treatment information, and EDSS scores measuring levels of physical disability. They also compared body mass index with information obtained on 14,747 children/adolescents in a Germany-wide child health survey.

Results: The team found that both boys and girls who were overweight or obese had twice the risk of developing MS, compared with non-overweight children or adolescents. Comparing responses to treatment with interferon beta or glatiramer acetate, the team reported that obese children had significantly more relapses on treatment, and were more likely to have switched to second-line treatment. Otherwise, there was no association found between obesity and disease activity, imaging scans, EDSS progression, or other measures.

The team (Brenda Huppke, MD, Peter Huppke, MD, and colleagues at University Medical Center Göttingen, Germany) published their findings in JAMA Neurology (posted online July 15, 2019)

Conclusions: This study provides strong support for a link between obesity and development of MS in both boys and girls. It also indicates a significantly worse response to first-line MS treatments and a greater likelihood of switching to second-line treatments among obese children. The authors suggest that obesity may affect pharmacokinetics – how a drug moves into, through, and out of the body. Further research is necessary to confirm these findings, and to understand the mechanism.
 

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Stem cells hold promise for MS

Stem cells

There is exciting and innovative research and progress occurring related to the potential of many types of stem cells for slowing MS disease activity and for repairing damage to the nervous system. In light of the urgent need for more effective treatments for MS, particularly for those with more progressive forms of the disease, we believe that the potential of all types of cell therapies must be explored.

Stem cell therapy is any treatment that uses or targets stem cells, which are the types of cells that differentiate into many different specialized cells in our bodies. Stem cells are found in both embryos and adults.

Many types of stem cells are being explored for their potential benefits for treating multiple sclerosis. Only when the results of these and subsequent clinical trials are available will it be possible to determine what the optimal cells, delivery methods, safety and actual effectiveness of these current experimental therapies might be for people with MS.

Although cell based therapy has generated a great deal of interest and holds promise, the field is in its infancy and much more research is needed before cell based therapies become a MS treatment option.

Different Types of Stem Cells

  • HSCs (haematopoietic stem cells) – adult stem cells that are found in bone marrow and blood. HSCs are capable of producing all of the cells that make up the blood and the immune system.
  • MSCs (mesenchymal stem cells) – adult stem cells found in several places in the body, including the bone marrow, skin and fat tissue. They produce cells which help other stem cells function properly.
  • NSCs (neural stem cells) – specialized stem cells responsible for repairing nerve-insulating myelin in the brain. These can be derived from other types of stem cells such as mesenchymal cells.
  • hESCs (human embryonic stem cells) – stem cells derived from donated embryos. They can naturally produce every type of cell in the body. One concern about their potential therapeutic use is that they have been found to cause tumors.
  • iPSCs (induced pluripotent stem cells) are engineered from adult cells to produce many types of cells. One concern about their potential therapeutic use is that they have been found to cause tumors.

www.nmss.org  The National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Multiple Sclerosis and CBD

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that impacts the body’s central nervous system (CNS) including the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. MS consists of an abnormal response of the body’s immune system. From here, the immune system targets myelin (a substance that surrounds and insulates the body’s nerves), and myelin gets damaged, which then produces scars (sclerosis). These scars are believed to be the cause of the painful symptoms MS patients experience.

Although MS causes various painful symptoms, over 85 percent of MS patients experience spasticity. Fortunately, though, based on the studies have been conducted on cannabis and MS so far, most indicate that cannabinoids are associated with self-reported spasticity improvements. It has also been found that CBD contains anti-spasm properties. Additionally, the American Academy of Neurology has expressed that cannabis is effective for the treatment of pain and spasticity. Then, one Israel study discovered that cannabis can safely alleviate pain in older MS patients and those with other chronic conditions, such as Crohn’s Disease.

Currently, 20-60 percent of MS patients consume cannabis, and many use topical cannabis products as their primary delivery method. To help treat muscle spasms and pain, it’s common for MS patients to use cannabis topically, so they can apply the medicine onto specific areas of their body. To achieve localized and rapid relief though, it’s recommended to use topical products with one example being CanniMed’s products, from which numerous Canadian MS patients have benefited.

Novel Molecule May be Used to Track and Treat MS

Scientists at Purdue used a novel approach to show that a molecule called acrolein is elevated in blood and urine from mice with MS-like disease and from people with MS, compared to those without the disease. Acrolein is normally a waste product, but seems to accumulate in people with neurologic disease, becoming toxic to nerve cells. They are now testing whether acrolein levels correlate with disease activity, to determine if this molecule may eventually be used to identify MS with a simple blood test. Medications targeting acrolein are already on the market, raising its potential as a therapeutic target for MS.

 

Read more in Purdue University News

Read the paper in Frontiers in Neurology

 

New MS Research

Research on immune activity in MS

Understanding and stopping MS in its tracks requires a better understanding of the role that the immune system plays in this disease. This system is involved both in the inflammatory attacks on myelin and, very possibly, in the injury to axons (the wire-like nerve fibers) that contributes to longer-term disability. Research on the immune system includes studies on:

  • Understanding components of the immune system such as T cells, B cells, and antibodies
  • Identifying new targets for therapeutic intervention while leaving the rest of the immune system capable of fighting infections
  • Identifying substances and processes involved in the injury of axons
  • Identifying the body’s natural immune messenger molecules that can either turn on or turn off immune attacks

Significant progress is being made in understanding the immune system’s involvement in MS, which will help drive breakthrough solutions to change the world for everyone with MS.

We’re making progress

Studies of the immune system in MS laid the groundwork for every disease-modifying therapy now available, and these studies continue to hold promise for finding ways to stop MS. Here are reports of recent progress:

Researchers co-funded by the National MS Society report study results indicating that “Tregs” – regulatory immune cells that are known to be dysfunctional in people with MS – play a role in promoting formation of new myelin following damage. If the results are confirmed through further research, these basic laboratory studies could eventually be translated to promising new therapeutic approaches to stimulating myelin repair to restore function in people with MS. Read more

Treatment with ATX-MS-1467 (Apitope) – an injected immune therapy whose early development was supported by the National MS Society through Fast Forward, the Society’s commercial research funding program – was reported to reduce disease activity on MRI scans in two small open-label studies involving people with relapsing MS. This is an approach to identify pieces of human proteins, called “peptides,” that might be able to reinstate “immune tolerance” – in effect, train immune cells to ignore myelin – to suppress MS attacks. Read more

Scientists at the University of Florida, funded in part by the National MS Society, took a novel approach to turn off immune attacks in mice with an MS-like disease. The team used a harmless virus to deliver a gene coding for a specific component of myelin, a key target of immune attacks in MS. Further research is needed to verify and refine this approach before it can be tested in people. Read more

Zinbryta (daclizumab), a Therapy for Relapsing MS, is Withdrawn from Market

  • Biogen and AbbVie have announced the voluntary withdrawal Zinbryta ™ (daclizumab) from the worldwide market.
  • Zinbryta is an immune-modulating therapy that was approved in 2016 for people with relapsing MS and generally reserved for people who had an inadequate response to two or more MS therapies.
  • According to a company press release, the European Medicines Agency had raised new safety concerns related to reports of inflammation of the brain or its surrounding tissues (inflammatory encephalitis and meningoencephalitis) among people taking Zinbryta.
  • Individuals currently taking Zinbryta should contact their healthcare providers to determine alternative treatment options, and to continue safety monitoring. According to the medication guide, this would include monthly blood tests to monitor liver function for up to six months after the last dose.

Best MS Books (29 books)

29 books based on 16 votes: Break The Spell by A.M. Bostwick, Mom’s Story, A Child Learns About MS by Mary Jo Nickum, Multiple Sclerosis: The Questions Y…
goodreads.com

Swedish Study Compares Rituximab with Approved Therapies for Relapsing MS

  • Researchers from Sweden used medical records to evaluate treatment outcomes in people whose initial therapy for MS was rituximab (an off-label therapy that targets immune B cells) compared to those given an approved MS disease-modifying therapy.
  • A higher proportion of people initially given rituximab remained on it, compared to those remaining on their initial therapy in the other groups.
  • Understanding which individuals do best on what therapies is important for enabling people with MS to make the best treatment choices. For this reason, results of controlled trials – several of which are now underway – are needed to truly understand the comparative effectiveness of MS therapies.
  • The report was published online January 8, 2018 in JAMA Neurology.

DETAILS
Background: An important question in the treatment of MS is whether to start treatment for relapsing MS with a powerful therapy at the outset (called induction therapy), or to take a more traditional approach of starting with less powerful therapy and ramping up to a more powerful approach if relapses or other signs of disease activity continue (called escalation therapy).

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute (Stockholm, Sweden) set out to compare outcomes of people receiving induction therapy with a drug called rituximab, which is not specifically approved for the treatment of MS, compared to those receiving escalation therapy with one of the approved disease-modifying therapies. The investigators tracked whether the participants remained on therapy or discontinued it, which is an indirect measure of how well the treatment performed.

Rituximab: Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody (a protein made in the laboratory) that targets a specific protein (“CD20”) on the surface of immune B cells. B cells are known to be involved in the inflammation and damage to the brain and spinal cord in MS. Rituximab is FDA-approved for the treatment of several conditions including some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis, and it has been used “off-label” to treat several immune-mediated conditions, including MS. Rituximab is given by intravenous (into a vein) infusions every six months. A similar B-cell therapy approach that is manufactured differently, called ocrelizumab, was approved by the FDA in 2017 for the treatment of relapsing MS and primary progressive MS.

The Study: The researchers used data from the Swedish MS Registry and medical records of 494 people from two counties in Sweden who had been recently diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. About 24% had been started on rituximab; other initial therapies included injectable therapies (such as interferons and glatiramer acetate = 43.5%), oral therapies (dimethyl fumarate =17.4% and fingolimod =3.4%), and natalizumab given by IV infusion (24.3%). The key outcome measured was the proportion of people who discontinued specific therapies.

Results: A higher proportion of people given rituximab remained on it, compared to those who received other initial therapies. The reasons for therapy discontinuation differed by type of treatment, but the most common reasons were side effects, disease activity or pregnancy. The authors also reported a trend for increased relapses and brain lesions in participants using treatments other than rituximab.

This study was funded by the Swedish Medical Research Council and others. The report, by Drs. Fredrik Piehl, Mathias Grandqvist and others (Karolinska Institute), was published online January 8, 2018 in JAMA Neurology.

Comment: Understanding which individuals do best on what therapies is important for enabling people with MS to make the best treatment choices. Unlike well-designed clinical trials that have protocols for patient selection and assessment of outcomes, and that randomly assign participants to treatment groups, this observational study was not able to account for factors that determined why any particular therapy was prescribed for any individual, or for all factors that may have triggered an individual or doctor to discontinue a particular therapy. Results of controlled trials – several of which are now underway – are needed to understand the comparative effectiveness of MS therapies.

 

Study Questions Influence of High-Salt Diet on MS

SUMMARY

  • Some recent studies have suggested that high intake of salt in the diet might influence MS disease activity and progression, but other studies have not confirmed that link.
  • In work partly funded by the National MS Society, researchers took advantage of data accumulated from a previous clinical trial involving 465 people with possible early signs of MS (CIS) whose salt levels in urine were measured over the course of 5 years.
  • They found no connection between salt intake and MS activity.
  • The study, “Sodium Intake and Multiple Sclerosis Activity and Progression in BENEFIT,” was published in the July 2017 issue of the Annals of Neurology (2017;82:20-29).
  • Although this study does not support a link between high-salt diets and MS disease activity, research suggests that most Americans eat more salt than is recommended by federal guidelines. Reducing dietary salt is considered by most to be beneficial to the heart and circulatory system.

DETAILS
Background: Several recent studies have suggested that dietary salt (sodium chloride) could potentially influence MS disease activity and progression. For example, one study of 70 people with relapsing-remitting MS, who were followed for two years, found that higher levels of salt measured in urine samples were associated with a higher rate of relapses and larger brain MRI lesions. In addition, mice fed a high-salt diet developed a more aggressive course of EAE, a laboratory model of MS. But two studies in pediatric MS did not find a relationship between self-reported salt intake and MS risk or relapse rates. Resolving this question is important because it offers the possibility that reducing salt intake might improve a person’s overall health and their course of MS.

This Study: In work partly funded by the National MS Society, researchers set out to determine if a high-salt diet is associated with faster conversion from a first neurologic episode (known as clinically isolated syndrome or CIS) to a diagnosis of definite multiple sclerosis, or with MS disease activity. Kathryn C. Fitzgerald, ScD (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine), Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPH (Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health) and colleagues took advantage of data accumulated from a previous clinical trial involving 465 participants who participated in a trial called BENEFIT (Betaferon/Betaseron in Newly Emerging Multiple Sclerosis for Initial Treatment) over 5 years. The trial compared benefits of giving interferon to individuals with CIS early versus later. Each person provided an average of 14 urine samples throughout the five-year follow-up. The researchers estimated average long-term sodium intake from the multiple urine samples, adjusting for age, sex, height, weight, where participants lived, and many other variables.

Results: Researchers found that neither average nor high urine sodium levels were associated with conversion to definite MS. They also weren’t associated with new MRI lesions at any point in the five years, relapse rates, or progression of disability. These results suggest that high sodium intake does not play a major role in influencing MS disease course or activity in people treated with interferon, at least in the early stages of the disease.

While the study has several strengths, including its length, large sample size, and systematic collection of data, it has limitations: BENEFIT participants were treated nearly uniformly with interferon, and the results may not apply to people on other therapies or no therapy. In addition, participants in the BENEFIT trial were primarily Caucasian and resided in Europe and Canada, and it isn’t known if similar results would apply to other populations and ethnicities. The results also don’t answer the question of whether salt intake affects the risk of developing MS in the first place.

The study, “Sodium Intake and Multiple Sclerosis Activity and Progression in BENEFIT,” was published in the July 2017 issue of the Annals of Neurology (2017;82:20-29).

Comment: Although this study does not support a link between high-salt intake and MS disease activity, research suggests that most Americans eat more salt than is recommended by federal guidelines. Even in the absence of direct evidence that MS immune activity is influenced by salt, reducing dietary salt is considered by most to be beneficial to the heart and circulatory system.

Read More: Diet, along with exercise, cognitive health, and other healthy behaviors can make a big difference to how you feel as you deal with MS. Learn more about living well with MS

Researchers Recruiting People with Primary Progressive MS for Genetics Studies – Key to finding treatment options

Primary progressive MS is characterized by steadily worsening neurologic function from the onset of the disease. There are still many gaps in the knowledge we have about what differentiates relapsing-remitting from primary progressive MS, and the underlying mechanisms of primary progressive MS. The MS Genetics Group at the University of California San Francisco is recruiting people with primary progressive MS for a research study involving a one-time blood sample donation with the goal of identifying genetic factors driving the course of the disease. The team also is looking for people without MS who are not related to serve as controls. The team hopes to identify the major genetic factors that play a role in disease presentation and progression. Please note: you do not have to be located in or travel to California to participate. Everything for the study can be done remotely and is free of charge to participants.

Rationale: Specific subtle variations in the human genome are known to play a role in determining who is susceptible to developing multiple sclerosis, and may also influence the course of the disease. People living with MS can make a difference in studies searching for these genes by donating their DNA with a blood sample. Identifying the exact location and role of MS genes could help determine who is at risk for developing the disease and can provide clues to its cause, prevention, and lead to better treatments.

Details: Once an individual has completed the initial online intake form, they will receive a call from the study coordinator to discuss details and answer any questions. The consent form and health information privacy form can be signed electronically. Participants will then be emailed a link to two additional short online surveys and sent a blood-collection kit. The kit includes everything necessary for the blood draw, which can be taken to your local Quest Diagnostics Lab and returned in a prepaid envelope to the lab at UCSF. There is no cost to participants.

Contact: To participate or request additional information, please complete a brief intake survey.
OR you may contact UCSF directly:
Clinical Research Coordinator
UCSF Multiple Sclerosis Genetic Susceptibility Project
675 Nelson Rising Lane, Suite 235A, Box 3206
San Francisco, CA 94158
Email: msdb@ucsf.edu
Toll Free Phone: 1-866-MS-Genes (1-866-674-3637) or Office Phone: (415) 502-7202

 

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