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MS Research Spotlight: Remyelination, Epstein-Barr Virus, and More

MS Research Spotlight covers key research news from the past two weeks.


What prevents remyelination? New stem cell research reveals a critical culprit

DECEMBER 18, 2018 || MedicalXpress

University of Buffalo research published in Cell Reports reveals that a phenomenon dubbed pathological quiescence (PQ) may be key to understanding the brain’s failure to remyelinate following nerve damage.

In healthy brains, injury to the central nervous system can be repaired through the process of remyelination. However, in people with MS, the ability of the brain to repair damaged myelin may be blocked by a genetic alteration to adult stem cells (PQ) which prevents them from producing myelin-forming oligodendrocytes.

The more that researchers understand about the remyelination process, the more they can focus on interventions that could prevent PQ.

The University of Buffalo study identifies a previously undescribed transcription factor, PRRX1, as the culprit responsible for shutting down unique stem cell precursors that aid in the production of myelin.1

NDA for novel relapsing multiple sclerosis oral treatment submitted

DECEMBER 17, 2018 || Monthly Prescribing Reference (MPR)

If approved, a new oral medication similar to dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera) may be marketed by Biogen which could offer fewer GI side effects.

The drug, diroximel fumarate (previously referred to as ALKS 8700) was developed by biopharmaceutical company Alkermes. Previous trials show the drug, which would be branded Vumerity, if approved by the FDA, has shown bioequivalence with Tecfidera in phase I studies.

It is designed to rapidly convert to monomethyl fumarate in the body, which may give it improved tolerability with regard to GI discomfort compared to Tecfidera.

Currently, diroximel fumarate has been conditionally accepted by the FDA. You can learn more about the studies evaluating diroximel fumarate here.2

Often-overlooked MRI signal may aid in early diagnosis of MS

DECEMBER 11, 2018 || MS Views and News

New research has uncovered a previously overlooked signal in MRI scans that may indicate areas of nerve cell death. Tracking this signal may help doctors to identify and diagnose MS early.

The signal, which exists in the background, can help detect damage to the central nervous system even before people begin to experience symptoms of MS. Its steady presence in MRI data is often ignored by doctors.

However, a new technique for interpreting MRI data known as quantitative gradient recalled echo (qGRE) has led to a new way to map the “geography” of the human brain.

When this data was merged with the usual MRI data, they discovered that R2t*, the steady background signal they used to overlook, reflected important information about cell types, density, and connectivity, and that a weaker R2t* signal could indicate the loss of nerve cells in the brain.

The researchers believe this new information will lead to new opportunities for detecting brain atrophy well in advance of the outward signs of neurological disease.

Learn more here.3

Treatment for Epstein-Barr Virus may help people With MS

DECEMBER 7, 2018 || Healthline

New research in Australia points to a new immunotherapy based on a treatment for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) that might “retrain” T cells to function properly.

Dr. Michael Pender, professor at the University of Queensland and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, said in an online report that “(Epstein-Barr) affects B cells and once affected, never leaves these B cells …keeping the virus under control by using T cells.”

Pender previously pointed to EBV infection in the brain as a likely cause of MS in 2003, suggesting that new therapies that target the virus, such as vaccines, might actually halt MS progression.

This study has limitations, but new clinical trials opening up in Louisiana, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, and in three location in Australia, are Pender’s opportunity to expand on what his team have recently learned.4

Canada has a new team of doctors, researchers dedicated to better understanding MS

DECEMBER 6, 2018 || CBC

The Canadian Proactive Cohort Study for People Living with MS (CanProCo) recently launched in Toronto with the goal of uniting a multidisciplinary thinktank to merge knowledge sets to better understand MS progression.

The effort, slated to run a course of 5 years, will involve a wide variety of healthcare professionals, including imaging experts, neuro-immunologists, health economists, and epidemiologists, among others.

Recruitment of 1000 MS patients with varying forms of the disease begins in early 2019. The study has received $7 million in funding from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, its donors and the Brain Canada Foundation.

You can learn more about the study here.5

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. University at Buffalo. What prevents remyelination? New stem cell research reveals a critical culprit. Medical Xpress - medical research advances and health news. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-12-remyelination-stem-cell-reveals-critical.html. Published December 18, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  2. NDA for Novel Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis Oral Treatment Submitted. eMPR. https://www.empr.com/drugs-in-the-pipeline/relapsing-form-multiple-sclerosis-ms-oral-diroximel-fumarate/article/821508/. Published December 17, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  3. Pena A. Ignored MRI Signal May Aid in Early MS Diagnosis, Other Brain Conditions. Multiple Sclerosis News Today. https://multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com/2018/09/27/ignored-mri-signal-may-aid-early-diagnosis-ms-other-brain-conditions. Published September 27, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  4. Craven C. Multiple Sclerosis and Epstein-Barr Virus. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/new-immunotherapy-may-improve-ms-symptoms. Published December 7, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  5. Chiasson A. This Toronto neurologist is leading a new effort to uncover the mysteries of MS | CBC News. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/canadian-team-of-doctors-begin-new-ms-study-1.4933816. Published December 6, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019.

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