Stacy Grieve, PhD,  —

Articles by Stacy Grieve

Salt-rich Diet Appears to Trigger Inflammation and Promote Autoimmune Disease by Impact on T-cells, Study Reports

Researchers at Yale uncovered a way that high-salt diets may trigger inflammation and possibly contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Their study, “Activated β-catenin in Foxp3+ regulatory T cells links inflammatory environments to autoimmunity,” was recently published in the journal Nature…

Smoking Increases Relapse Rate in RRMS Patients on Tysabri, Study Suggests

Smoking increases the relapse rate in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis being treated with Tysabri , an observational study suggests. Multiple sclerosis is a multifactorial disease associated with both genetic and environmental risk factors. Smoking, in particular, has been linked to numerous aspects of MS, including its development and progression. In a previous study, the research team looked at how smoking influences the relapse rate in RRMS patients being treated with interferon beta. From more than 800 patients, they found that smoking one pack per day (about 20 cigarettes) essentially interfered with the positive effect of the IFN-beta treatment and increased the relapse rate by 27%. The researchers then questioned whether the same was true for other treatments. Tysabri, developed by Biogen, is a monoclonal antibody that targets the alpha-4 integrin protein. By interfering with this molecule, the therapy prevents white blood cells from moving into the central nervous system, suppressing the immune reaction that contributes to MS symptoms. In the study, 355 Tysabri-treated RRMS patients from the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Centre were assessed. To gather information on smoking habits and body mass index, the patients filled out a 100-question survey. Data was collected between the start of the treatment and a two-year follow-up visit. Results showed that smoking one pack of cigarettes per day increases the relapse rate by 38% in RRMS patients on Tysabri. This increase in relapse rate takes into account both sex and age at the start of treatment, since age can affect the relapse rate. For example, an increase in age by one year raises the number of relapses by 2%. The researchers also looked at the relationship between smoking and the presence of two immune-related alleles: HLA-DRB1*15:01 and HLA-A*02:01. Previous studies showed that HLADRB1*15:01 is associated with an increased risk of developing MS, while HLA-A*02:01 is linked to a decreased risk. Although previous studies reported a link between smoking and these two alleles in MS patients, the current study did not find an association between smoking and carrying either of these alleles. Based on the results, the researchers concluded that smoking significantly increases the relapse rate in RRMS patients receiving Tysabri. According to the team, the results "add important information that hopefully will sharpen the focus on the overall harmful effects of smoking in MS patients."

Falls Common Among Wheelchair, Scooter Users in People with MS, Study Reports

The majority of people living with multiple sclerosis who use wheelchairs or scooters for mobility reported falling at least once over a six-month period, according to a new study. While most studies have focused on ambulatory MS patients, this may be the first study to assess the prevalence and circumstances of falls among those who already experience significant mobility issues and require the use of wheelchairs or scooters to get around. In ambulatory MS patients who are able to move around on their own, about 50 percent reported falling during a six-month period. The current study recruited 44 MS patients from May 2014 to July 2015 who required wheelchairs or scooters to move about. These patients were from medical centers across the United States and Asia. They were asked to complete a survey focusing on the prevalence of falls, the frequency of injuries, the circumstances surrounding the falls, and quality-of-life indicators. Thirty-three of the 44 participants (75 percent) reported falling at least once in the previous six months. This number is higher than any of the other studies that assessed the prevalence of falls in MS patients. Many of these people experienced more than one fall within those six months. Of these falls, 87.5 percent occurred inside the home. The top four activities reported by participants that led to these falls included using the toilet, transferring, walking short distances, and reaching for an object. Some of the people said the falls were serious, and 8 percent of participants reported an injury because of their fall. Perhaps for this reason, many reported concerns about falling (76.7 percent). And, more telling, 65.9 percent of these MS patients reported altering their activities because they feared falling. The use of mobility devices may affect the prevalence of falls. Participants were asked if they had fallen using a specific mobility device. Here is how they responded: 66.7% reported falling while using power wheelchairs; 37.5% fell while using manual wheelchairs; 66.7% fell when using scooters; 71.4% reported falling while using a walker; 100% fell while using a cane. Because of the high prevalence of falls while using a mobility device, researchers said, clinicians should provide better education regarding the use and function of these mobility devices. There were no significant correlations between people who experienced falls and quality-of-life indicators in this study. Results from the study highlight the need for interventions specifically targeted for MS patients who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs and scooters. The body of research regarding predictors of falls suggest that some of the risk factors can be modified; therefore, more effort should be made to prevent falls using targeted rehabilitation interventions.