MS Good News Report: The Latest Research through January 2021

Research news with a positive angle.


National MS Society (NMSS) greenlights COVID-19 vaccine for people with MS

In case you missed it

The NMSS released its position regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Good news — it appears to be safe.1 From their website:

“Like other medical decisions, the decision to get a vaccine is best made in partnership with your healthcare provider. Most people with relapsing and progressive forms of MS should be vaccinated. The risks of COVID-19 disease outweigh any potential risks from the vaccine. In addition, members of the same household and close contacts should also be vaccinated against COVID-19 when available to decrease the impact of the virus. …People with progressive MS, those who are older, those who have a higher level of physical disability, those with certain medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart and lung disease, pregnancy), and Black and Hispanic populations are among groups with the highest risk for hospitalization due to COVID-19. Individuals in these high-risk groups are especially encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as it becomes available to you.”


Progressive MS researcher wins major prize

Kudos to professor Alan J. Thompson at University College London for winning the 2020 Sobek Prize.2 The award (€100,000, or about $123,000 in US dollars) recognizes his critical work in research undertaken since the 1990s to unlock the mysteries of progressive MS.3

This is especially significant news during a pandemic. Most research resources (money, personnel, clinics, research subjects, etc.) have been reallocated to studying COVID-19.4 The pandemic has forced MS to a standstill, so this recognition is particularly hopeful.


Bioscience researchers suggest new approach to MS research could hasten treatment protocols and cures

A research team at Indiana Biosciences Research Institute questions the “immune-centric-only” approach to autoimmune disease research.

Team leader Dr. Decio Eizirik, of the institute’s Diabetes Center, said “trying to understand these diseases focusing on the immune system only, and forgetting the target tissues, may be similar to attempting to fly a plane with only one wing.”

His team thinks that four autoimmune conditions—type 1 diabetes, lupus, MS, and rheumatoid arthritis—share key inflammation-induced mechanisms, identifiable at the tissue areas where damage occurs.

While their chief focus is accelerating the pathway to a type 1 diabetes cure, these four conditions could equally benefit from their research, as “drugs that are effective in one autoimmune disease could be equally beneficial for another and quickly repurposed to make a big impact for people living with that disease,” Eizirik said.

“Characterizing the similarities and differences between multiple autoimmune diseases has the potential to transform the way we treat and cure these diseases in the future."5


Diversity in clinical trials continues to shape healthcare disparity discussions

Bias in medical research and healthcare disparity isn’t a good news topics: quite the opposite! But the year 2020 resurrected discussions about inclusivity in the medical research community that we should feel hopeful about.

Access to representation in healthcare and clinical trials has long been a struggle for many populations, including people of color, the LGBTQ community, women, non-English speaking people, rural residents, and the chronically ill.

Last fall, popular medicine blog Kevin MD published a think piece addressing this troubling problem, made even more glaring in the COVID-19 spotlight.6 A podcast on this powerful topic is now available.7


Patient perspectives regarding MS progression demand better communication, inclusivity

It’s not news to people with MS (PwMS) that their perspectives on disease progression aren’t always valued by researchers.

Thankfully, a literature review published in Patient Preference and Adherence addressed the issue, which they correctly identify as “under-investigated and under-reported.”8

Their research results suggest that “little qualitative evidence exists that examines PwMS’ perspectives on MS progression. The understanding and meaning ascribed to terms such as ‘disease progression’ vary. Some PwMS find disease labels stigmatizing, confusing, and disconnected from reality. The lack of a clear definition of progression and discrepancies between PwMS and healthcare professional (HCP) perspectives may contribute to misunderstanding and poor communication.”

How refreshing to be invited into this discussion?


MS DRUG RESEARCH UPDATES, IN BRIEF

Check out these end-of-the-year good news stories about potential treatments for MS:9-11

  • January 8: Noninflammatory mRNA vaccine used in COVID-19 shots found to delay onset of EAE* in mouse models as well as reduce severity
  • January 22: Preexisting antiviral therapy could benefit those newly diagnosed with MS
  • January 29: Monthly chemotherapy drug Kesimpta (ofatumumab) gets positive feedback for treatment of RRMS in Europe

*EAE (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis) is an animal form of MS researchers use to both study disease behaviors and identify safety and effectiveness of potential treatments.

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