MS Patient’s Pick of the Week’s News: Blood Tests, Marijuana, Cameras, and More

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Pick of the Week's News

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Here’s my Pick of the Week’s News, as published in Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

Blood Test Seen to Distinguish MS from Other Neurological Conditions

A faster way to tell the difference between neurological diseases could mean earlier access to treatment for MS patients.

Researchers at Michigan State University suggest that a blood test can distinguish patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) from people with other neurological conditions, according to a recent study published in EBioMedicine.

Results from the study, “An In Vitro Diagnostic for Multiple Sclerosis Based on C-peptide Binding to Erythrocytes,” need to be confirmed in larger and more in-depth studies, but so far provides a promising candidate for an easy, inexpensive and fast way to make an initial MS diagnosis.

Because diagnosing MS can be a slow and uncertain procedure, researchers have long been on the lookout for an objective lab-based method. Currently, most people have to wait between six months and two years before a diagnosis is set, but because available therapies are only able to slow disease progression, it is crucial to start treatment as soon as possible.

Let’s hope this first study can be confirmed in a larger one and then be brought into use quickly.

New Pre-HSCT Treatment May Make Stem Cell Transplants a Safer Option for MS Patients

Research looks good in theory but, even if the results in mice can be replicated in humans, development and approval of this method is a long way off.

Scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a method for stem cell transplants that may do away with the need for prior systematic treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. If successful, stem cell transplants could be an option for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), an option now limited by the risk of severe toxicity triggered by the chemotherapy.

The study, “Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in immunocompetent hosts without radiation or chemotherapy,” was the cover story of the latest issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine. The method has been successfully tested in mice, but if proven safe and effective in humans, it could truly revolutionize MS treatment, as well as the treatment of a host of other conditions.

“If it works in humans like it did in mice, we would expect that the risk of death from blood stem cell transplant would drop from 20 percent to effectively zero,” the study’s senior author, Dr. Judith Shizuru, MD, PhD, and a professor of medicine at Stanford, said in a news release.

In my opinion, anyone considering having HSCT should not be tempted to wait for this to be finalized. The earlier anyone has HSCT the better the likelihood of success, so don’t delay.

Earth Life Sciences Acquiring Maker of Medicinal Cannabis Oil Treatments for MS

This is something I never thought I’d see, marijuana being treated like any other commodity.

Earth Life Sciences (ELS), a venture capital and management firm based in Quebec, announced that it is partnering with a cannabis oil-based nutraceutical company, with an agreement in place to acquire that company and establish a new division. The resulting entity will be an organic medical marijuana oils (CBD) producer that will develop products for patients who wish to use cannabis to manage chronic pain in a variety of diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

ELS notes in a press release that research suggests cannabis can help manage chronic pain, especially the nerve-related pain that often plagues persons with MS and other neurological disorders, and that cannabis oil has therapeutic properties not replicated by other available medications.

A guideline issued in 2014 by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), titled “Summary of evidence-based guideline: Complementary and alternative medicine in MS,” concluded that, based on evidence regarding marijuana and its derivatives, oral cannabis extract and synthetic THC are likely to be effective in reducing patient-reported spasticity and pain, but not MS-related tremor or spasticity measured by tests administered by physicians. Its most commonly reported side effects being dizziness, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, and memory disturbance.

It seems medical marijuana can give some benefits in terms of reducing pain and spasticity but do we really want the listed side effects? Aren’t we dizzy and drowsy enough already? Do we need to have more difficulty concentrating and more memory disturbance? Some of us have enough of those things already.

Kinect’s 3-D Gaming Camera Can Help Assess Gait Problems in MS Patients, Study Reports

A computer game camera can help evaluate walking gait difficulties. Whatever next?

According to new research out of McGill University in Montreal, Microsoft Kinect, a 3-D depth and motion sensing input device for use with the company’s Xbox 360 and Xbox One video game consoles and Windows PCs, could be a cheap, effective, and easy-to-use tool to evaluate walking gait difficulties in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

GholamiFA research team led by McGill postdoctoral fellow Farnood Gholami, and supervised by Jozsef Kovecses of the Mechanical Engineering department and Centre for Intelligent Machines, Kovecsescollaborated with Daria Trojan, a physiatrist with the McGill Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, in determining whether the Kinect could accurately and consistently detect differences in walking gait in MS patients compared to healthy persons.

A paper reporting the research findings, “A Microsoft Kinect-Based Point-of-Care Gait Assessment Framework for Multiple Sclerosis Patients“, was published in the July 2016 edition of the IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics. Based on these findings, the investigators established the potential feasibility of using a Microsoft Kinect camera in a clinical setting.

I always thought that there must be a better use of computer games than keeping kids quiet – although that is good in itself.

MSAA Opens New Online Community Forum for MS Patients, Caregivers

New online forum gives patients, their families, and caregivers a helping hand.

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) recently announced the official launch of My MSAA Community, a free online community forum supporting people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and their caregivers and family members, and offering a way for patients to connect with others facing the same challenges.

MSAA is a nonprofit organization and a resource center for the MS community with a range of programs and services provided at no charge, including a help line staffed by trained professionals, publications like the biannual magazine The Motivator, award-winning educational videos, and research updates. The MSAA also runs the S.E.A.R.C.H. program to keep patients informed about treatment choices, and offers patients and caregivers a dedicated phone app, called My MS Manager, to better track changing symptoms, medication, and related information.

My MSAA Community is hosted by HealthUnlocked, a health-specific social network used by more than 40 million people every year.

This online forum looks like a great development for people who cannot join a support group local to them.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

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Ian Franks is Managing Editor of the Columns division of BioNews Services. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain and uses his skills to write his own flourishing specialist MS, Health & Disability blog at Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.
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  1. Ruby says:

    As with many of you reading this comment you will know of someone with MS or are one going through the many symptoms of MS. My husband has MS. Together with his knowledge and research we are searching for that something which will halt the progression. We are sure we are not the only ones. He has not had any medication since being diagnosed in 2007. He has over recent yrs been showing signs of the MS really challenging him. We are reading and researching about Stem Cell therapy. If you have had the procedure whether with chemotherapy or not we would be grateful for any information. Anyone been to Switzerland? Serbia? What about in the Uk. Anyone who has an amazing consultant. Any info would be appreciated. Facebook etc has views but like minded people on this site may inform us otherwise. Look forward to your views.

    • Ian Franks says:

      Hi Ruby, although I write for MS News Today, these opinions are my own. I was diagnosed in 2002 and, like your husband, have never received any medication. I have decided to see if I am suitable to have HSCT and am going to Moscow in October to be assessed. I will be writing about my experiences in MS News Today. I have no information about Switzerland or Serbia. I would say that the HSCT groups on Facebook have a great deal of information and I would urge you to join one or more to gain the benefit of their experiences.

  2. Inge Freeth says:

    Good Luck Ian in Moscow!
    How did you get in? had your pre-research in Spain?Is it covered by insurance ?or you had to sell your house or had a collect ‘save Ian’?
    greetings inge Freeth.

    • Ian Franks says:

      Hi Inge, I am going to Moscow in October for four days of clinical assessmnts, to see if I am a suitable candidate for HSCT. If I am, then the fundraising will begin. judt a ‘small’ matter of $50,000.

  3. Phil Longford says:

    Hi Ian. The ‘small’ matter of $50,000 is why I am suspicious, (maybe ANYONE with $50,000 would be a ‘suitable’ candidate?) But will be very interested to hear your reports. Hopefully it will be beneficial, but I am hanging on until the results are proven. Hopefully it will then become available on the NHS? Just taken delivery of pomegranate tablets, and hemp seed oil. No harm in trying!

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