MS Research Spotlight: Potential Tinnitus Device, Workplace Microaggressions & More
MS Research Spotlight covers key research news from the past two weeks.
Potential treatment for tinnitus
APRIL 8, 2019 || STAT
A recent competition for scientific inventions and discoveries, hosted by the science news aggregating site STAT, selected a winner from a record 160 contest entries: the Michigan Medicine’s experimental device for treating tinnitus (ringing ears).
Over the last two decades, Michigan Medicine professor Susan Shore has tested tinnitus models on guinea pigs to better under why ears ring.
Her team discovered a way to “turn down” ringing ears using a patented experimental electrical stimulation device which combines auditory and touch-sensitive stimulation pathways in a unique way.
They adapted the device for safe human experimentation, then applied the technology to 20 human subjects.
The device delivered a combination of phantom noise and mild electrical impulses for 30 minutes daily over 4 weeks to select subjects in different testing groups.
Results showed that not only was tinnitus reduced in those who used the device, but subjects also found relief for related psychological distress.
Shore’s team has launched a larger clinical trial which should yield results in 2020.1
New study shows no link between mineral intake and MS risk
APRIL 4, 2019 || National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS)
Researchers at Harvard have determined that the development of MS is not directly linked to the intake of specific dietary minerals.2
The minerals studied include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.3
The NMSS is quick to caution people with MS: “While this study does not support the idea that mineral intake influences a person’s chance of getting MS, it also does not imply that diet has no bearing on a person’s experience living with MS. Maintenance of general good health is very important for people with any chronic disorder: what and how you eat can make a difference in your energy level, bladder and bowel function, and overall health.”
Risks and risk management in modern MS immunotherapeutic treatment
APRIL 1, 2019 || Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders
A comprehensive survey of immunotherapeutics available for people with MS, including their risk potentials, side effects, details of how they work, and practical recommendations for patients, was recently published in Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders.
The research team created the updated overview after recognizing the large and complex field of new drugs targeting the immune system which are now available for use in treating MS.
The team decided it was important to identify data that can reflect a patient’s informed and “optimal choice” as individual therapies have “peculiarities and specific requirements with regard to treatment monitoring, especially in relation to immunosuppression, the development of secondary immune-related complications, as well as the existence of drug-specific on- and off-target effects.”4
Premature aging in cells contributes to diminished remyelination potential
MARCH 25, 2019 || PNAS
New research into the pathophysiology (or disease course) of demyelination shows that certain kinds of cells found in white matter lesions in people with progressive MS— known as SOX2* progenitor cells— have been found to age prematurely.
This premature aging (senescence) may impair the behavior of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, known to lead to states of chronic demyelination.
The scientists believe that targeting and stimulating the SOX2* progenitor cells, to prevent their aging, may help to alter the likely consequential outcome of demyelination and “represent a novel therapeutic approach to promote remyelination in MS,” with a special emphasis on progressive forms of the disease.5
Microaggressions experienced by people with MS in the workplace
MARCH 25, 2019 || Rehabilitation Psychology
An exploratory research effort recently published findings from a small focus group study which looked at the impact of microaggressions experienced by people with MS in the workplace.
Microaggressions were defined by the team (Lee, Ditchman, Thomas & Tsen) as “subtle forms of discrimination and include verbal, nonverbal, or environmental slights that convey disparaging messages to people based upon their group membership, such as disability.”
The results were unsettling, if not surprising to those living with MS. According to the researchers, “almost all of the participants in this study reported experiencing some form of microaggressions in their workplace. Several important themes emerged, including pathologizing, assumption of disability status, second-class, lack of awareness, social distance, and denial. This study also found that perceived stress was associated with microaggressions and that microaggression exacerbated the negative impact of uncertainty related to symptoms and job security.”
Subjects also identified the coping mechanisms they used to deal with these negative experiences, which included meditation and support group participation.6
Does listening to music help lower the severity of your stress or MS symptoms?