MS Good News Report: The Latest Research through May 2020
Research news with a positive angle – formerly known as the MS Research Spotlight
Certain telemedicine applications can help with cognitive dysfunction in people with MS
An independent review of scientific literature suggests that people with MS who experience cognitive deficits may find telemedicine treatment options useful.1
Among the treatments that people with MS can access online, the researchers, from the Kessler Foundation and the University of Alabama, found that “patient adherence across studies was impressive, indicating the practicality of such home-based training.”2
The reviewers also favorably identified the cognitive exercises from the Posit Science Corporation app known as BrainHQ.3
More than 100 published studies of the BrainHQ exercises show gains achieved in standard measures such as attention, memory, stress management, mood, balance, and everyday cognition.2
Posit Science Corporation CEO Dr. Henry Mahncke responded to the review by saying “We are heartened by this literature review [and] … are in discussions with leading medical providers about establishing centers of excellence to refine clinical best practices in the use of our tele-rehabilitation tools.”2
International Symposium on Gait and Balance in MS highlights walking strategies
Four specific areas for improving gait and balance were discussed among 100 clinicians, researchers, engineers, and others at the meeting held May 7, 2020 in Denver:4
Electrical stimulation demonstrated improvements to walking speed, distance, and standing ability in research participants in a small study.
Significant improvements to quality of life, balance, walking, and cognitive tasks performed while walking were found in a small study focused on comprehensive yoga as a therapy.
People with MS who participated in aquatic therapy research in Missouri by way of three separate studies were found to have improved walking speed, distance, and balance after undergoing this therapy.
The shoes that people with MS wear may affect their walking ability. Certain kinds of footwear in one study—with a medium or high cushion—were shown to improve posture control in the people wearing them. In a comment from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, “Although it seems simple, if people feel more comfortable standing, this can improve daily function and quality of life.”
In all cases, more studies are needed to confirm these optimistic findings.
Transplanting human glial cells can remyelinate the brain
Research published in Cell last month shows that it’s possible to repair MS-related nerve damage.5
In a neuroscience lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center, investigators successfully generated glia, a kind of human brain cell. The subtype of these cells, known as glial progenitor cells, support the development of key brain cells known as astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. These specialized cells help to protect brain health and function. Oligodendrocytes manufacture myelin, while astrocytes can control further damage during an MS flare and support lesion repair.6
Researchers experimented with transplanting glial cells into mouse models. They watched as these new cells traveled to their targeted areas and did two important tasks: they created new oligodendrocytes and they replaced the missing or damaged myelin caused by MS. These observations suggest their findings surrounding glial cell transplants may “effectively achieve remyelination in the adult brain.”7
Remyelination research in Madison, Wisconsin awarded the Dystel Prize
The National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology jointly awarded Dr. Ian D. Duncan, a neuroscientist and neurology professor, for his groundbreaking demyelination research.8
The National MS Society announced that "Professor Duncan has made a series of critical research advances that bring us closer to understanding how to restore function in people with MS by promoting myelin repair.”
Duncan focuses on transplanting myelinating cells into mouse models to better understand how central nervous systems actively restore the coating on nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Among the professor’s many associations, Duncan sits as a founding member and chair for the scientific work group, The Myelin Project.9
MS drug research updates, in brief
May 2020 brings more good news in the MS drug research department:10-13
- May 29: People with RRMS may enjoy a future with no evidence of disease activity (NEDA) while using ofatumumab (Arzerra)
- May 27: Zeposia (ozanimod) approved for the treatment of RRMS in Europe
- May 26: Trial shows reduced relapses over two years in people with RRMS
- May 15: New oral medication for RRMS approved by the FDA
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