MS Good News Report: The Latest Research through February 2021

Research news with a positive angle.

The National MS Society rolls out COVID-19 vaccination timing guidelines

It can be extremely confusing to know just when you qualify to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. But just when you find out you are able to get your doses, you discover that your particular MS medications may require more waiting time.

One size does not fit all in the vaccination scenarios for people with MS. Acknowledging this, the NMSS has put together a timing guideline based on type of disease-modifying therapy taken. “Given the potential serious health consequences of COVID-19 disease, getting the vaccine when it becomes available to you may be more important than optimally timing the vaccine with your DMT,” write the authors of the guidelines.

Speak with your MS specialist

But even if some medications used to treat MS may require some timing adjustments to receive the vaccine, it's also worth noting that for some MS treatments, no adjustments are needed. They advise people with MS to speak with their MS specialists first to fully understand and apply the best vaccination protocols for their situations.

They also warn against changing your own MS medication schedules to fit a vaccine dosing protocol. “If the risk of your MS worsening outweighs your risk of COVID-19, do not alter your DMT schedule and get the vaccine when it is available to you.”1

Virtual neurologist visits for people with MS become an established option

The pandemic has changed the way we interact with our healthcare providers. If you've experienced a telehealth visit with your MS specialist, take note: This may be the wave of the future.

A recent survey conducted by George Washington University researchers suggests that more the 75 percent of doctors surveyed said they've used telemedicine for patient visits in the last year. Virtual care has occurred either using video connections and phone calls. It's likely your Zoom video connections for doctors' appointments right now will continue even after the pandemic has passed.

Not all visits for MS-related concerns are best handled through a telemedicine portal. For example, MRIs and full neurological exams still must be conducted live. But follow-up, medication discussions, and questions about symptoms or side effects are quite manageable through virtual connections. And for people with barriers to live care (disability or geographic), this trend may make MS care more accessible.2

Women with MS aren't necessarily at higher risk for pregnancy complications

Concerns about gestational diabetes and stillbirth are common among all pregnant women. However, pregnant women with MS may wonder if they are at higher risk for these and other pregnancy concerns.

New research published in Neurology suggests that for some pregnancy complications (gestational diabetes, stillbirth, and emergency cesarean section), mothers with MS do not face higher risks. The study involved nearly 3,000 pregnant women with MS compared against nearly 57,000 women without MS and data was collected between 1997 and 2016.

The research wasn't entirely positive: more mothers with MS were shown to undergo induced delivery or deliver their babies by elective cesarean section, and their babies were more likely to be small for their age. "We think the reason more women with MS have babies by elective C-section or induced delivery may have to do with MS-related symptoms such as muscle weakness, spasticity or fatigue that might affect the birth," said study author Dr. Melinda Magyari. "Any of these could make a mom more tired and lead to delivery complications that could prompt the clinician and woman to take extra precautions."3

Myelin researcher wins tops prize for innovative MS research

Dr. Dwight Bergles, a leading neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University, has won the 2020 Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research. Dr. Bergles is recognized for pioneering the study of immature brain cells which regenerate myelin-making cells, known as oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs). His research is critical for understanding the mechanisms behind myelin repair.
Of the honor, Dr. Bergles said, “I hope that the recognition of this award will encourage more young scientists to devote themselves to uncovering the mysteries of these remarkable cells and develop new therapeutic approaches to accelerate myelin repair in multiple sclerosis.”4

MS drug research updates, in brief

February brought these good news stories:5-7

  • February 2: Metformin investigated as potential therapy for children and young adults with MS
  • February 5: Indazole chloride, and estrogen-like compound, found to repair myelin and restore vision in mouse research
  • February 18: Patient support program shows positive influence for fingolimod users

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

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