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Myelin Repair, Gut Bacteria, and When Does MS Begin?

Blog Summary

At last week’s American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, I was struck by the tremendous progress we’ve made in understanding and treating MS. We are closer now than we have ever been to ending MS forever. I’m sharing some of that progress here, and I invite readers to browse the scientific summaries (abstracts) for yourselves, and also check out my colleague’s blog from the AAN, "Explorations of Progressive MS Reported at AAN 2019."
 
Myelin Repair Trials: I was excited to see first results from a small, open label trial of a thyroid hormone mimic called liothyronine to see if it is safe and holds promise for promoting repair of nerve-insulating myelin, a main target of damage in MS. The study was led by Dr. Scott Newsome of Johns Hopkins University, who received a grant from the National MS Society to support this trial. He reported that it was generally well tolerated, with GI symptoms being the main side effect. This kind of small study isn’t designed to detect actual myelin repair, but the Hopkins team is now analyzing other outcomes to see whether they see hints that a phase 2 trial is warranted (abstract S56.003)...

Advances in MS Progression and Nervous System Repair at the AAN

Blog Summary

I’ve just returned from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) meeting in Boston, where thousands of the country’s leading neurologists shared their most recent research findings. I wanted to share the exciting advances being made towards a better understanding and treatment of progressive MS and new research that is getting us closer to the repair of the nervous system and restoration of lost function...

ECTRIMS 2016: Bone Marrow Transplantation (HSCT)

Blog Summary

It’s nighttime here in London, England after the first full day of ECTRIMS – the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS. This meeting is the world’s largest gathering of MS researchers in the world, with more than 8,000 clinical and research professionals from across the globe, including many Society-funded researchers and fellows, meeting to share their cutting-edge research findings, to network and collaborate.   It was a jam-packed day of science!  For this blog, I want to share my impressions of a staged debate that was focused on the topic of hematopoietic (bone marrow) stem cell transplantation – HSCT for short...

Myelin repair and stem cells get attention at AAN Meeting

Blog Summary

Tremendous advances in the understanding and treatment of MS were presented last week at the AAN Meeting in Vancouver. One of the areas getting the most attention was myelin repair. Myelin wraps around nerve fibers, like insulation on an electric cord. In MS the myelin is damaged, disrupting electrical signaling and making the nerves more susceptible to damage that leads to progression. Myelin repair is seen as a promising approach for restoring lost function and slowing down – or even stopping – progression.   We have recently come to learn that the brain is full of spare cells waiting to be called into the service of repairing myelin. In early MS, these cells find their way to areas of damage, wrap around nerve fibers and repair myelin. However, as the years go by, they lose this ability. Finding ways to stimulate the brain's ability to repair itself is an area of intense study and several notable presentations were made at last week’s meeting...

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.

MS Repair: Rapidly moving out of the lab and into people

Blog Summary

When I was in the lab, my research focused largely on using mouse models of MS to test concepts that couldn’t be explored in people yet. Studies presented at this week’s AAN meeting are making it clear how far research has advanced since that time. Case in point: I never would have thought just a few years ago that I would be writing about myelin repair in people, not mice. So it was pretty exciting to see a presentation Wednesday evening showing the first results of a clinical trial of the myelin repair strategy called anti-LINGO, which is being developed by Biogen. This study involved giving this IV infusion or a placebo every 4 weeks for 20 weeks to 82 people who had experienced their first episode of optic neuritis. Optic neuritis involves inflammation of the nerve that connects to the eye, and it’s often one of the first signs of MS...

Rapid Progress in Research on Cell-Based Therapies – Including Trial Results from Cleveland Clinic

Blog Summary

Cell-based therapies that have the potential to both stop MS in its tracks and restore lost function are getting a lot of attention at this week’s ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS meeting. Stem cells can be found in different tissues and organs and under the right circumstances, can transform into specific types of cells when needed to repair injuries. These stem cells represent a promising area of research for both slowing MS activity and for repairing the brain’s myelin that has been damaged by MS. But – Which cells? Given how? To whom? How often? – are some of the big questions that need to be answered with ongoing research. And while this approach has much promise, it is still experimental and not yet proven to work. Read more about different approaches to research into stem cells for MS...

Exciting News for Progressive MS Research

Blog Summary

Hello from the ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS meeting in Boston. Today I had the honor of participating in a press conference to announce important news about the International Progressive MS Alliance. I was joined by my colleagues from around the world to share the Alliance strategies for ending progressive MS, and we also answered questions from a room full of reporters from around the world. The Alliance announced the launch of 22 new research grants to investigators in 9 countries, who will be taking intriguing new approaches to overcome barriers to developing treatments for progressive MS. Many of the new grant recipients were at the press conference, and the atmosphere was electric! ...

Progress in progressive MS: Report from the trenches of MS research

Blog Summary

One important way researchers share their latest findings at big meetings like the American Academy of Neurology is during the twice daily “poster sessions.” During these sessions, researchers display the results of their studies on wall sized posters and these posters are pinned to rows upon rows of portable display boards in one of the largest halls of the convention center. During these “sessions” the authors of the posters stand by their boards and are available to present and discuss their work with other scientists. Think scientific speed dating! The MS poster sessions have been jam packed, so it really feels like you are in the trenches of MS research. We are learning more and more about what drives MS progression, or worsening – which many people with MS will eventually experience. Understanding the factors that drive MS progression will provide new approaches to stopping, reversing and restoring what’s been lost. One of these factors appears to be smoking. Previous studies have shown that smoking can increase the risk of developing secondary progressive MS (the progressive form of MS that follows an initial diagnosis of relapsing MS) by as much as 3-fold! The good news reported this week during a poster session on MS health outcomes research is that this risk is reduced by quitting. The authors found that for every year that passes after a person stops smoking, the risk for progression is reduced by 5%. The reasons why smoking promotes progression remain to be determined, but I think we know enough now to strongly state that people with MS who smoke should really stop...

Promising new treatment approaches making news at the AAN meeting

Blog Summary

Greetings from Philadelphia! You might remember that Philadelphia was our Nation’s capital during the revolutionary war. This week, the city of brotherly love is the capital of multiple sclerosis research as thousands of neurologists gather here to report their latest discoveries. I have been impressed by both the number and the quality of studies on emerging therapies for MS being presented this week. One of these studies was the eagerly awaited clinical trial of the pregnancy hormone estriol combined with Copaxone in relapsing-remitting MS. This study was inspired by the observation that MS relapses are less frequent during the third trimester of pregnancy, a time when estriol is at its highest level. In this trial of 164 women, the investigators determined that pregnancy levels of estriol plus Copaxone reduced the rate of relapses after one-year by 47% compared to women taking Copaxone alone. There were also significant positive benefits observed in the scores of cognition tests. These positive effects were less significant in the second year of the study – the reasons why are not clear, but a more thorough analysis might reveal some answers...
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