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We Rally: The Impact of Federal Medical Research Funding

Blog Summary

In September, the U.S. Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded through December 11, 2015, meaning federal agencies and programs receive a 0.2108% across-the-board cut in compliance with the Budget Control Act and Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget caps. The goal is to work out a comprehensive budget for FY 2016 before December 11th. This Fall two MS researchers joined forces on Capitol Hill to rally for federal MS research funding. Together they’re sharing their experiences to help us all better understand how the ongoing budget negotiations will affect their work...

Promising Therapies on the Horizon for All Forms of MS

Blog Summary

There was a lot of excitement at ECTRIMS this week about the emergence of new treatment approaches for all forms of MS, even progressive. Earlier blog posts have already covered emerging therapies including stem cells, nervous system repair strategies and rehabilitation and wellness approaches. So this report focuses on results from experimental therapies that are well on their way to being available to people with MS. 

Depression and its Impact in Multiple Sclerosis

Blog Summary

Most of us know that depression is a very common symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS). What people may not know, perhaps because the topic is rarely discussed at dinner parties, is that suicide is one of the leading causes of early death in people with MS. For this reason, I was interested in the presentation at ECTRIMS 2015 of the Swedish study entitled, “Multiple sclerosis and risk of completed and attempted suicide – a national cohort study. ”  To be clear in our definitions, “completed suicide” is that which results in death and “attempted suicide” is that which does not.

ECTRIMS: Research Spotlight on Diet and Wellness Approaches

Blog Summary

A big part of my excitement at the ECTRIMS meeting is seeing so many researchers from around the world working hard to find the best solutions for people affected by MS. I found this to be especially true in the growing area of lifestyle and  wellness research  -exploring diet, exercise, physical activity and other approaches -  all of which people can manage themselves to improve how they feel and possibly how their MS evolves. 

New Findings on Stem Cell Transplantation, including HSCT, in MS

Blog Summary

Transplantation of stem cells is a promising area of research that could lead to strategies that stop or even reverse damage caused by MS. Advances in this approach were presented during the ECTRIMS meeting in Barcelona this week. Stem cells can be found in many parts of the body and they have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types that have the potential to regenerate damaged tissue. This ability offers a new approach for treating diseases, including MS. In this update, I will be talking about two promising approaches: hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and mesenchymal stem cell transplantation.

What Does “Benign” Multiple Sclerosis Really Mean?

Blog Summary

Benign multiple sclerosis is a misleading and controversial term. Some neurologists do not recognize this as a form of MS at all. (Many people who meet the criteria for having benign MS will tell you that it certainly feels anything but benign.) Some believe that if people make it to 10 years without significant disability, they will not really progress to needing assistance to walk and may be able to stop treatment. Many others simply disagree with the classification and do not make treatment decisions based on a “benign” designation. I sat in on one session at the 2015 meeting of the European Committee for Research and Treatment in Multiple Sclerosis, entitled “Long term course of apparently benign multiple sclerosis,” to see if the research was starting to clear the air.

Rising Multiple Sclerosis Rates in Middle East

Blog Summary

We know a great deal about the epidemiology of MS in the populations of the United States, Canada and Europe. However, we don’t hear much about what is going on with MS outside of these regions, especially in the Arab world. When I noticed a session  at the 2015 meeting of the European Committee on Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, titled “Epidemiology of Multiple Sclerosis in the Middle East,” I eagerly attended to learn more.

Web-Based Programs Offer Promise For Increasing Exercise and Addressing Fatigue

Blog Summary

Ninety percent of people with MS describe fatigue as one of the worst symptoms (I am one of them). Fatigue is surely the most common MS symptom, and it’s one that can really limit our functionality. I found out during a presentation at the 2015 meeting of the European Committee of Treatment and Research (ECTRIMS) that fatigue is also the most common reason for early retirement among people with MS. Unfortunately, drugs have been disappointing in helping us manage or improve fatigue. The best results have come out of studies focusing on behavioral and educational interventions, many employing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)...

Nervous System Repair – Multiple Strategies in the Pipeline

Blog Summary

Nervous system repair is getting a lot of attention this week in Barcelona at ECTRIMS, the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS, where 9,000 experts in MS have gathered to share research ideas and results. When I was working in the lab as a neuroscientist not so many years ago, the idea of a therapy with the capability to repair the nervous system seemed very far away. Today, we have a better understanding of factors that control the body’s natural repair mechanisms, and closer than ever to potential repair therapies. In fact, there are several experimental strategies actually in clinical trials right now.  Repair trials underway include a trial testing clemastine, an oral antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms; an antibody called rHIgM22, which was well tolerated in one study in people with all types of MS; and a monoclonal antibody called anti-LINGO that also has shown positive results in a phase 2 study in people with a first episode of optic neuritis. 

How People with Multiple Sclerosis Use Social Media

Blog Summary

If you are reading this, you are using the Internet. If you leave a comment, “tweet” this, or post it to Facebook, you are using social media, which is defined as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” Many people with MS love to get engaged in social media and talk about their MS, as well as hear about the experiences of others. I’m at the 2015 conference of the European Committee for Research and Treatment in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) and I was given the task to present a talk to neurologists entitled “How People with Multiple Sclerosis Use Social Media.” I’ll share with you what I told them.

#WhenYourParentHasMS You Stand Strong for MS Research

Blog Summary

From a young age, I have been interested in the science behind my mother’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis. I knew that I wanted to be part of the medical community. After many years working in the hospital during my undergraduate career, as an emergency medical technician, as well as shadowing neurosurgeons and performing research during my master’s program, I chose the bench (research) over bedside (treating patients). At that time, a majority of therapies targeted symptoms, not the source, of MS, and there were no therapies available to treat progressive MS. So, I have researched neurodegeneration and repair in the brain; specifically myelin repair.  In July, I started as a National MS Society research fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the lab of Stephen D. Miller, PhD. In addition to my focus on myelin repair, as a neuroimmunologist, I have the opportunity to pursue selective immune suppression. Ideally, selective immune suppression will lead to decreased (or even absence of) relapses, and myelin repair will mean the ability to repair damage.  As neurodegeneration underlies MS, effective disease-modifying therapies need to both regulate the immune system and promote restoration of neuronal function, including remyelination. Soon, I hope to be able to move from pre-clinical therapeutic trials into patient trials – and improve peoples’ quality of life in all stages of MS...