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MS Good News Report: The Latest Research from January 2020

MS research news with a positive angle – formerly known as the MS Research Spotlight.

Is it possible to diagnose MS by looking at the myelin?

A new Case Western Reserve University imaging agent for myelin, better known as Myeliviz, promises to do just that. The FDA has given university researchers the green light to study the agent’s safety and early efficacy at Cleveland Clinic Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis.

How it works: Healthy volunteers are injected with the agent prior to a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. The scan shows how well the agent “lights up” their myelin as a simpler way to identify healthy versus damaged nerve coatings.

Some scientists think if this procedure works, it may even, in some cases, replace MRIs—especially when tracking disease progression.1


New nerve cell injection protocol could help repair spinal cord injury for people with MS

New clinical research on laboratory rats shows promise fora new procedure that delivers specific kinds of stem cells through injections into sites of spinal cord injury. This technique could potentially do two things:

  1. Prevent further spinal cord damage, while helping to
  2. generate new cells able to respond to and repair spinal cord damage

This isn’t the first time scientists have delivered stem cells into the spine; however, this new technique takes a less invasive route while delivering a high volume of cells in a single injection.

The researchers plan to expand their research to preclinical animal models of spinal cord injury more biologically similar to the human nervous system in the near future. For people with severe demyelinating disease, this could be a lifesaver.2


Diagnosing MS in the blink of an eye: EyeStat

A new portable device cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2019 might deliver a series of “puffs” to the eyes to identify MS in the future.

The lightweight device known as EyeStat measures the human blink reflex. It delivers several puffs of carbon dioxide randomly to the corners of the eyes. The test takes about 20 seconds to perform. During that time, more than 12,000 pictures are taken of the blink reflex. These pictures can identify deficits in the delivery of nerve signals to and from the brain—one way to potentially identify the onset of MS.

The machine is already used by sports teams to identify potential concussions. With this newest FDA clearance, researchers hope to use EyeStat for other applications, such as to capture early cases of MS.3


Speaking more than one language could help if you have MS

Hablas español? Sprichst du Deutsch? Anata wa Nihongo o hanasemasu ka?

Initial findings from studies of MS in bilingual people suggest those who speak more than one language may have advantages over cognitive deficits compared to those who speak only one language.

The researchers wrote that “bilingual MS patients had inhibitory control and monitoring abilities that were similar to healthy bilingual controls.” In other words, they could control certain executive functions like their healthy bilingual peers.

Meanwhile, people with MS who only spoke one language showed greater evidence of impairment in these same executive functions.

Does this mean you should learn a new language? Sure, but only if you want to become bilingual! (It’s not a bad goal!) The evidence that it will help you manage cognitive deficits remains preliminary, however. More research must take place before we can expect a prescription for a Foreign Language 101 class. But if you’re already bilingual, why not consider it your own MS superpower? Ciao!4


New UK-based research using the immune system to prevent brain damage funded by the European Research Council

Professor Adrian Liston, a senior immunology researcher leading a large team at the Babraham Institute, recently received grant funding to develop what’s been described as “pioneering research.” He has developed a new immune-based approach that promises to prevent and potentially reverse brain damage caused by trauma or diseases like MS. Work by the large international, multidisciplinary team could help many people with MS diagnosed with progressive forms of the disease.

The grant, valued at €150,000 (about $165,000 US dollars), will allow Liston and his team to research this novel approach over an 18-month period. They seek to validate the approach through pre-clinical trials. After that, they’ll prepare it for patient-facing clinical trials in the future.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. Figueiredo, M. New Imaging Agent of Myelin for Earlier MS Diagnosis, Myeliviz, Entering Clinical Testing. Multiple Sclerosis News Today. January 29, 2020. https://multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com/news-posts/2020/01/27imaging-agent-of-myelin-myeliviz-entering-clinical-trial.
  2. University of California - San Diego. "New injection technique may boost spinal cord injury repair efforts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200129125606.htm (accessed February 12, 2020).
  3. Young, B. Portable device to monitor the blink reflex cleared by Food and Drug Administration. Medical University of South Carolina. January 28, 2020. https://web.musc.edu/about/news-center/2020/01/28/blinktbi.
  4. Multiple sclerosis and bilingualism. John Benjamins Publishing Company. January 16, 2020. https://benjamins.com/catalog/lab.18037.ave.
  5. EU grant success to harness the immune system to treat brain damage. Cambridge Network. January 13, 2020. https://www.cambridgenetwork.co.uk/news/eu-grant-success-harness-immune-system-treat-brain-damage.

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