Multiple Sclerosis News Roundup

February 18, 2011

Three recent studies looked at the link between vitamin D and MS, the link between heat and the brains of patients with MS, and a cure for MS.

Warm weather is known to aggravate multiple sclerosis, increasing the number of lesions that develop in the brain and spinal cord and leading to a flare-up of symptoms such as numbness and fatigue. But a new study shows that warm weather can also impair cognitive function.

The study, which will be presented in April at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, examined 40 people with the disease and 40 healthy people. The researchers, from the Kessler Foundation in West Orange, N.J., found that people with multiple sclerosis scored 70% better on thinking tests during cooler days as compared with warmer days. There was no difference in test scores linked to weather conditions for healthy people.

Patients with multiple sclerosis should know that their memory and learning ability may be somewhat hindered on warm days, the authors said. And researchers working on multiple sclerosis should take into account weather when conducting clinical trials.

Source: Los Angeles Times

The Link Between Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

People with higher vitamin D levels may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis.

Previous studies have shown people living close to the equator are less likely to get MS than those at higher latitudes.

Scientists say that the difference may be explained by more sun exposure and higher vitamin d levels.

Australian researchers studied more than 600 adults. Some had the first signs of multiple sclerosis, others had no sign of the disease.

Participants were asked how much time they spent in the sun and also had the vitamin D levels in their blood checked.

On average people with the first signs of multiple sclerosis had less sun exposure and lower vitamin D levels than those who had no sign of the illness.

Source: WCTV.TV

Working Toward a Cure for Multiple Sclerosis

There is currently no cure for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) — however scientists at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research believe that specialised cells found in the blood might hold the key to improving the quality of life of the thousands of New Zealanders affected by this disease.

In an „Outstanding Observation‟ published recently in the international scientific journal Immunology and Cell Biology, Drs Jacquie Harper, Thomas Bäckström and Clare Slaney describe how blood cells called monocytes may play a part in the development of MS.

MS is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that affects one in every 1,500 New Zealanders and can render an individual unable to write, speak or walk.

The Malaghan research, which was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, showed that the ability of the blood monocytes to suppress inflammation is impaired in an experimental model of MS.

“As such, these monocytes are no longer able to prevent inflammatory cells from destroying the central nervous system of MS sufferers,” said Dr Harper.

“If we can find a way to reactivate suppressor function in the monocytes of MS sufferers, we might be able to provide a new treatment for MS that could delay or even prevent the progression of this disease.”

Dr Thomas Bäckström was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Malaghan study. He recently returned to Sweden to take up the position of Director of the T Cell Biology Department at Scandinavia‟s biggest pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. Dr Bäckström says that we all have these monocyte suppressor cells in our blood. The new challenge is to find tools to help them do a better job at controlling inflammation to treat dreadful diseases like MS.

“Because MS hits adults in their prime, it dramatically reduces quality of life,” said coauthor and Malaghan MS Research Associate Dr Anne La Flamme. “Current treatments are not equally effective in all MS patients and often have side-effects associated with medium to long term use, so there is a desperate need for safer, more effective MS therapies.”

Next week Dr La Flamme will participate in stage six of the Great New Zealand Trek, as it journeys the length of the country on horseback, mountain bike or by walking, to raise funds to help the Malaghan continue its groundbreaking research and find a cure for MS.

Source: Scoop News