Fresh hope for MS sufferers with new treatment found
By Joyce Rubotham @seoighee
There is fresh hope for sufferers of multiple scleroses as a new treatment is found to suppresses the disease.
Clinical trials in Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada demonstrate the success of the treatment in patients with aggressive early stage MS.
Multiple scleroses is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system.
Our immune system normally protects from infections by attacking invading microbes. An auto immune disease occurs when the immune system begins to attack healthy cells in the body instead of microbes.
In the case of multiple scleroses the immune system attacks an essential component of the nervous system; the outer protective layer or myelin sheath of nerves in the brain. The result is damage to the nerves resulting in scars called sclerae, after which the disease is named.
What exactly causes the immune system to stop behaving normally and begin to damage the nerves in this way remains a mystery. It has been suggested that certain infections can trigger MS, however this idea has yet to be confirmed.
When the nerves of the brain are damaged, the part of the body controlled by that area of the brain is subsequently affected. Symptoms can therefore vary from patient to patient.
Symptoms of the disease typically include loss of or changes in sensitivity, such as pins and needles or numbness, vision problems and chronic pain. Diagnosis is made based on the clinical symptoms and MRI scans of brain cells showing the sclerae or scars.
The recent breakthrough was published in the medical journal The Lancet. Dr. Harold Atkins and Dr. Mark S. Freedman led the trials. The new treatment involves removing part of the rogue immune system. It is then replaced with an improved or better-behaved immune system that does not attack the nerves.
The new treatment is the first to show complete and long term suppression of nerve damage in MS patients. Progression of the disease was completely halted in 70% of patients treated.
Since previously damaged nerves are not repaired by this treatment it is suitable for patients with early stage MS only. It brings much hope however for the future of the 250 people diagnosed annually in Ireland.
Read the full scientific paper at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30169-6/abstract