MS News that Caught My Eye Last Week: MS Pain, Your Bioclock, Remyelination
The next time a doctor tells you that there’s no pain associated with MS, point them to this study. Yes, MS can cause chronic pain and, yes, the pain can be caused by nervous system lesions.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients should be routinely assessed for chronic and, especially, neuropathic pain to properly diagnose and treat this condition, which appears to affect directly the degree of a patient’s disability, a new study reports.
The study, “Systematic assessment and characterization of chronic pain in multiple sclerosis patients,” was published in the journal Neurological Sciences.
This study is a bit difficult to explain, but reading this story, I came away with two thoughts: It’s possible that your MS symptoms may vary depending on the time of day. Also, the effectiveness of an MS therapy may vary depending on the time of day the treatment is given. It all has to do with a clock-watching gene known as BMAL-1.
Researchers further explored how our internal biological clock — known as circadian rhythm — influences immune system responses. Disruptions to that rhythm are associated with immune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), although in ways not fully understood and, the study suggests, may affect response to treatment.
A natural 24-hour cycle that exists in every animal and plant, the circadian rhythm is known to regulate all physiological processes. Maintaining a healthy body clock is increasingly recognized as a key step for good health, and studies have shown that people with a disrupted internal clock — such as night-shift workers — have a higher incidence of diseases like MS.
Researchers at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, in Dublin, and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) used a mouse model of human MS — the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model – and showed that the time of day regulates the activation of several of the animals’ immune cells.
It sure would be nice if a treatment came along that would help reverse the damage that MS creates, rather than just slowing or stopping its progression. Though this research is only in a very, very early stage, the researchers are hoping that they’ve found a substance that will help to repair myelin.
Taurine helps oligodendrocytes, which are cells responsible for myelin production, to fully mature and activate the remyelination process of damaged nerve cells.
The findings were reported in the study, “Metabolomics-based discovery of a metabolite that enhances oligodendrocyte maturation,” published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
Here’s another story about remyelination research. In this case, researchers are looking at a drug that’s currently used for another purpose, which they hope might be useful as they try to develop a remyelination process. But, again, it’s just a small step down that long road.
Protamine — an agent used to stop the anticoagulant effects of heparin — was seen to trigger remyelination in mice with myelin damage. But while pointing a way forward for studies of myelin regeneration in multiple sclerosis (MS), the research team underscored that protamine itself is not an optimal treatment candidate.
The study, published in the journal PLOS One, reported that protamine acts to neutralize molecules that block processes involved in remyelination. Finding similar compounds with properties better suited to human use could lead to new regenerative therapies.
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