My good friend Katherine likes to say, “There’s never been a better time to have MS” when we read about the research and treatments that are coming out to help those of us who suffer with this disease. This last week, however, has been gob-smacking amazing. This week has shown us some real steps forward towards curing MS.
Scientists find “off” switch for auto-immune function.
Yeah, you read that right. Researchers out of Bristol University have discovered how to stop our immune systems from attacking our own bodies. You can read all about it here.
“Scientists were able to selectively target the cells that cause autoimmune disease by dampening down their aggression against the body’s own tissues while converting them into cells capable of protecting against disease.”
This news is ridiculously fantastic because, if their findings are correct, it doesn’t just mean an end to multiple sclerosis, but an end to (or at least effective treatment for) 159 diseases.
To give you an idea of the scope of how many people that affects positively, it’s estimated that 2.5 million people in the world have multiple sclerosis, and it’s considered one of the more rare autoimmune diseases. Crohn’s disease is estimated to affect twice as many people… and in 2010, there were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV. So right there, with only 3 diseases being represented, you’re looking at 41 million people who have a reason to be hopeful. That’s equivalent to the entire population of Kenya. To contrast, the largest city in the United States (New York City) only has 8.4 million. Los Angeles has fewer than 4 million. Let that sink in for just a second.
But wait, that’s not all! Let’s repair some myelin, safely.
If it weren’t enough that they may have found a way to stop MS in its tracks, they also may have found a way to reverse the damage without horrific side effects.
BIIB033, a monoclonal antibody targeting the LINGO-1 remyelination signaling block, has passed phase 1 safety tests.
“The anti-LINGO-1 trial is likely the first of many that will test drugs that have been shown to enhance remyelination in [mouse] models,” wrote Pedro Brugarolas, Ph.D., and Brian Popko, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, Illinois, in the editorial. “Soon we should know whether this approach will provide benefit to patients with MS, which would be the first evidence that enhancing myelin repair may alter the course of this disease.”
So not only can we possibly stop MS from progressing, but we might be able to heal the lesions that it created and return lost function. The only thing left would be to stop it from ever occurring in the first place.
But wait, there’s more!
So we can stop auto-immune function, and there’s hope that we can repair myelin… but what if repairing myelin doesn’t get the job done? That’s where technology comes in.
Scientists have been able to bypass the spinal column non-invasively and trigger walking. You read that right. In the last two weeks scientists have also figured out how to help parapalegics regain use of their limbs. Read all about it here.
Japanese researchers have created an “artificial neural connection” (ANC) from the brain directly to the spinal locomotion center in the lower thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine, potentially one day allowing patients with spinal-cord damage, such as paraplegics, to walk.
We live in SUCH a cool time. I’m very hopeful for a future where no one has to suffer from MS at all.