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Has the ‘Holy Grail’ of MS Treatments Been Found?

Has the ‘Holy Grail’ of MS Treatments Been Found?

The medical field is abuzz with news that a new form of Multiple Sclerosis treatment could dramatically halt MS’s escalating symptoms by retraining the body’s own defenses.

Multiple Sclerosis is a condition that affects the central nervous system where the immune system mistakes the nerve fibers, known as myelin, to be a threatening force, like the flu virus, and attacks those fibers, causing damage and often debilitating symptoms.

The new treatment, developed in conjunction with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, takes a blood sample from the patient and then couples the white blood cells, a part of the immune system, with fragments of myelin. This is then injected back into the patient.

As reported on in Science Translational Medicine, this resulted in the immune systems of the nine patients involved in this test being in effect retrained to no longer consider myelin a threat, and as a result the attacks on nerve fibers decreased.

The trial wasn’t in fact designed to test the effectiveness of this treatment, which explains the small sample of people used, but rather it was to test the “feasibility, safety, and tolerability” of the regimen.

However, as well as finding that the MS sufferers were able to cope well with the new treatment, the scientists overseeing this trial found that the treatment reduced attacks on the nerve fibers by a considerable 50-75%.

While the small number of people involved in this study means that the treatment’s effectiveness cannot be accurately measured, this is a very encouraging start that is based on a firm grounding of more than 30 year’s worth of research.

MS is a complicated disorder that can show itself in a variety of different ways, so talking about “common symptoms” is problematic.

For the sake of our general overview, however, a few often reported symptoms include:

  • vision problems
  • balance problems
  • fatigue and extreme fatigue
  • bladder problems
  • stiffness and loss of mobility
  • muscle spasms
  • tremors
  • clouded thinking and memory problems

There is at the moment no cure for MS, and MS is often, though not always, a progressive disease that worsens over time. The range of treatments offered to MS patients present their own problems too.

One of the methods of stopping attacks on the myelin is to suppress the immune system. Of course, by doing this, one leaves MS sufferers open to a variety of everyday illnesses and an increased susceptibility to potentially serious infection.

The beauty of the so-called retraining treatment discussed above is that, while it can not reverse the damage already done by MS, it sidesteps the problems that come with immune suppressants. For this reason, the treatment has been referred to as a (potentially) massive breakthrough.

“The therapy stops autoimmune responses that are already activated and prevents the activation of new autoimmune cells. Our approach leaves the function of the normal immune system intact. That is the Holy Grail,” Stephen Miller, professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University, is quoted as saying by the Independent.

It is important to stress again that this treatment cannot reverse the damage done by MS, but it could, when coupled with breakthroughs in early diagnosis, offer a real possibility of preventing sufferers from developing MS’s more severe symptoms.

The BBC quotes Dr Susan Kohlhaas, head of biomedical research at the MS Society, as saying, “Being able to specifically stop the immune system attacking myelin but still keeping it fully functional poses an exciting potential therapy for people with MS. More research is now needed and we eagerly await the results of any future larger clinical trials of this therapy.”

The research teams involved in developing this treatment now intend to widen their trials, but will concentrate on early-stage MS sufferers who stand to benefit the most from this treatment.

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Image credit: Thinkstock.

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51 comments

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1:40PM PDT on Nov 2, 2013

..cont:

So what is the conclusion?

"This is compelling evidence that vitamin D supplements should be routinely prescribed for people with MS, and at a substantial dose."

1:38PM PDT on Nov 2, 2013

..continuing..

"A 2005 MS and vitamin D study from Finland measured vitamin D levels during relapses and compared these with levels during remission.13 They found the levels to be lower during a relapse and concluded that vitamin D may be involved in the regulation of disease activity in MS. Although levels were lower during relapses, they were mostly still in the ‘normal’ range. It seems likely that just having a normal vitamin D level may not be enough to significantly reduce the risk of relapses; a ‘high’ level may be more protective."

"A vitamin D and MS study from Turkey showed that people with MS had significantly lower levels of vitamin D than people without MS.14"

"So, in relation to MS and vitamin D, many authorities now recommend that people with MS get adequate vitamin D both to control the illness itself, but also to minimize the risk of complications like falls and fractures.16"

"Additionally, MS and vitamin D research from the US Nurses Health Study showed that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of developing MS by 40%, and this was with very low dose supplementation.17"

"Apart from finding that high doses were safe (the higher dose group averaged 14,000IU per day through the study versus 1,000IU for the group treated with standard doses by their doctors), the researchers found that the higher dose group had 2/3 fewer relapses through the course of the study."

"The magnitude of the benefit derived from taking vitamin

1:30PM PDT on Nov 2, 2013

I was doing some googling:

http://www.overcomingmultiplesclerosis.org/Recovery-Program/Sunlight-and-Vitamin-D/

"The vitamin D MS theory was first proposed by Goldberg in 1974.4 He felt that getting insufficient sunlight to form vitamin D could be the trigger for MS in genetically susceptible people. He calculated, in relation to vitamin D and MS, on the basis of amount of sunshine in areas with little MS, and the rate at which vitamin D is formed in the body, that it would take 3 800 international units of vitamin D daily to prevent the onset of MS. Incredibly, exactly this dose has recently been calculated to be the amount of vitamin D required to maintain a steady reasonable vitamin D level.5"

"A number of animal experiments have shown that the animal model of MS is either stopped from developing or progressing by giving vitamin D supplements or by UV light therapy.7,8"

"It appears that vitamin D has protective effects and immunomodulatory effects in the brain, and is useful in neurodegenerative and neuroimmune diseases, typified by MS. Researchers have concluded that for vitamin D and multiple sclerosis, its immunomodulatory potency is equivalent to other currently used immunosuppressants yet without their typical sometimes severe side effects."

11:38AM PDT on Nov 2, 2013

I have my own vitamin d story I may recount later when I find time, but I suggest everyone suffering from MS or any nerve pains, fatigue, sleep disorder, breathing disorder, heart disorder, etc, (or cancer, diabetes, flu or other viral/bacterial infection, etc) to take enough vitamin d3 to get into the upper range of what is considered optimal. [If you have a very weak liver and/or kidneys, I would recommend seeing a doctor first and ask about vitamin d.]

If you want to start today, you can try 4000 IU/day. If you have MS, you may want to try 10,000 and then 20,000 and maybe higher and see if your body improves more at the higher doses. These levels are very safe for a few weeks at least. And 10,000 can perhaps be maintained indefinitely (but that is for you and your doctor to answer). Do online search to see that such a quantity is almost surely safe for everyone. In any case, if you really are nervous, do 2000 or if you REALLY are nervous, then 1000. What I want to add is that if you have an illness that will be consuming extra vitamin d (I sort of do), then those levels may fall short of what your body will thirst for. Vitamin d enables DNA processing and is consumed after doing its unit of work. This means if you are sick, you will consume more as you heal.

The warning is that when your levels are very low, you may feel chest pains for a little while after taking the pills. Don't be alarmed. If you want you can lower the dosage and take the lower dose multiple time

11:14AM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

ty

9:12AM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

Wow! That's great news! I was diagnosed with MS a couple of years ago, but my symptoms at this point are fairly mild. I am afraid to take medications that will suppress my immune system. I've heard stories from others that are quite worrisome. I know this new treatment is only in it's early stages and will require years of testing, but it gives hope for myself and others.

8:21AM PDT on Jun 13, 2013

My wife suffers from M.S. so this is encouraging hopeful news! Let's hope the trials progress successfully and quickly!

6:33AM PDT on Jun 13, 2013

Thanks.

5:13AM PDT on Jun 13, 2013

wonderful news!

1:43AM PDT on Jun 13, 2013

Great news... never give up hope!

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