Research Could Lead to Faster Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

The cure for multiple sclerosis (MS) continues to be elusive — and scientists believe part of the reason progress has been so slow may be due to where they’ve been looking.

Researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School say it now appears that much of the investigation into the chronic disease has focused on the wrong part of the brain.

49764_webUntil now, most MS research has focused on the brain’s white matter, which contains the nerve fibers.  The disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks a fatty substance called myelin, which coats nerves contained in the white matter. When the nerves are exposed, transmission of nerve impulses can be slowed or interrupted.

But a new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that the brain’s gray matter, which contains the axons, dendrites and synapses that transfer signals between nerves, is far more affected by the disease than previously suspected.

It’s a finding that scientists say could give physicians more effective tools in the treatment of MS.

By taking advantage of a combination of new technologies called proteomics and high-resolution mass spectrometry, Dr. Steven Schutzer and his team were able to analyze patients’ cerebrospinal fluid (CSF); something until recently, they couldn’t do.

“Proteins present in the clear liquid that bathes the central nervous system can be a window to physical changes that accompany neurological disease,” said Schutzer, “and the latest mass spectrometry techniques allow us to see them as never before.”

In his study, Schutzer used that technology to compare the cerebrospinal fluid of newly diagnosed MS patients with that of longer term MS patients, as well as fluid taken from people with no signs of neurological disease.

The proteins in the CSF of the new MS patients suggested physiological disruptions not only in the white matter of the brain, where the myelin damage appears, but also pointed to substantial disruptions in the gray matter.  Nine specific proteins associated with gray matter were far more abundant in patients who had just suffered their first attack than in longer term MS patients.

Scientists had hypothesized that there might be gray matter involvement in early MS, but until now, the technology needed to test their theories did not exist.

One of the leading MS clinicians and researchers in the country, Patricia K. Coyle of Stony Brook University in New York, called the groundbreaking study “exquisitely sensitive,” providing solid physical evidence for the very first time.

“This evidence indicates gray matter may be the critical initial target in MS rather than white matter.  We may have been looking in the wrong area,” Coyle said.

The hope is that this discovery could lead to more effective treatments for MS with far fewer side effects. Drugs that MS patients currently take slow the body’s destruction of myelin in the brain, but also degrade the immune system’s ability to keep the body healthy in other ways.

Patients who suffer attacks that appear related to MS could have their cerebrospinal fluid tested quickly with a high resolution mass spectrometer. If proteins that point to early MS are found, helpful therapy could begin at once, before the disease can progress further.

But the advanced analysis of cerebrospinal fluid wouldn’t be limited to just MS. Schutzer said he has used the technique to identify physical markers for other neurological ailments, including Lyme disease and chronic fatigue syndrome.

“When techniques are refined, more medical conditions are examined, and costs per patient come down, one day there could be a broad panel of tests through which patients and their doctors can get early evidence of a variety of disorders, and use that knowledge to treat them both more quickly and far more effectively than is possible now. “

MS is a chronic disease which attacks the body’s central nervous system. An estimated 400,000 Americans have the disease; more than 2 million worldwide.

For most people with MS, relapses are initially followed by recovery periods or remissions.  Symptoms may be mild or severe, ranging from numbness in the limbs to paralysis or loss of vision.

The progression, severity and symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Over time, recovery periods may be incomplete, leading to progressive decline. There is no known cure.

 

Tags: , ,

4 Responses

  1. Lew says:

    Lynne,

    We have to keep in mind that they can’t just take the CCSVI model and only look there because Ari is correct, it doesn’t work for everyone. I was one of the first done and have big stents. I just got checked out over a year ago and still have GREAT flow but still suffer from everything I ever did. It gave me some energy for sure and peeled back some symptom stuff but it did not abate the disease. It is a miracle for some and nothing for others. To me that is only more proof that we, as MS’rs, are suffering from not just one neurological event that causes lesions and demyelination.

    I am so far behind CCSVI it’s not even funny since so many of us are benefiting from the procedure but it’s far from even 50% and just because 40,000 have had it done, me being one, doesn’t mean it did anything for a great majority. I think we need to keep looking down all ‘ratholes’ and not just the EAE. But you can’t discount CCSVI as a naysayer also. People need to quit being possessive of “their” model and stop taking sides or we’ll never get anywhere! We need to research this with some money NOT provided by big pharma who is the biggest side taker of them all!

  2. Lynne Heal says:

    Naysayers are wrong because over 40,000 worldwide have now had CCSVI many with brilliant outcomes. Plus its more safer than any MS drugs , as many cause PML and deaths

  3. Ari says:

    @Lynne

    That is just incorrect. My mom had the procedure and had no benefit. It is not for everyone

  4. Lynne Heal says:

    CCSVI is the new direction WORLDWIDE over 40,000 have now had. Very safe procedure and better than many deadly MS drugs that cause PML

114 queries. 0.360 seconds.