MS Columnist’s Picks of the Week: ECTRIMS, Biomarkers, Cannabis, Migraine, Research Award

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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 by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

#ECTRIMS2016 was undoubtedly the star of the week

ECTRIMS, the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, dominated the news stories of the week when it held its 32nd congress in London.

There were so many news stories that I thought it better not to suggest just one of them but instead invite them all to be read on this site. All of the headlines begin with #ECTRIMS2016.

Can MS Be Detected by Biomarkers in the Blood? Yes, Study Says

This is an interesting idea.

MicroRNAs present in the blood show promise as potential biomarkers of multiple sclerosis, a new study suggests.

The study, titled “Comprehensive Evaluation Of Serum MicroRNAs As Biomarkers In Multiple Sclerosis,” was published by Keren Regev, MD, and colleagues in the journal Neurology.

To determine whether circulating miRNAs were associated with disease, disease stage, and disability in MS, researchers analyzed blood samples from 26 MS patients and 20 healthy subjects. After an initial observation that more than 650 microRNAs could be detected among participants, researchers then validated the microRNAs found to have a significantly different expression in MS samples by comparing them to an additional population of 58 MS patients, 30 healthy controls, and to 74 samples from participants with other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

I am not going to reproduce the entire scientific explanation in this column, but if you are interested in reading all the details, just click on the heading above.

Montel Williams Starts Medical Cannabis Company for MS and Other Chronic Diseases

Former TV personality supports use of marijuana to treat MS.

Montel Williams, a Naval Academy graduate who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, has announced the launch of a line of high-quality medical cannabis products under the brand name LenitivLabs by Lenitiv Scientific.

The former television host and wellness advocate has been particularly vocal when it comes to support the use of medical marijuana across the United States. Legislation allowing for medical marijuana use has been a hot topic in recent years — and is especially hot during election years.

Williams is considered one of the highest-profile advocates for medical cannabis in the country, and he has been using cannabis products — at the advice of his doctors — to help manage his MS symptoms.

“I experience neuropathic pain 24 hours a day because of my MS,” Williams said in a press release. “My physicians recommended cannabis as part of my treatment 17 years ago, and I’ve used it ever since. Only someone suffering from a debilitating disease can understand cannabis’s therapeutic value.”

Good to see that some doctors are prepared to recommend non-traditional treatments.

Migraine and Other ‘Common’ Ills Being Mistaken for MS, Study Finds

MS diagnosis is bad enough without the possibility of mistakes being made.

Patients with a number of common conditions — some neurological and some autoimmune, but others not — are being mistakenly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) because of difficulties in correctly determining this disease and, possibly, pressure to begin treatment early in the disease’s course, according to a recent study published in the journal Neurology.

“Although many rare disorders are known to mimic MS, it appears that presently, a number of common disorders are frequently mistaken for MS,” Andrew Solomon, MD, from the University of Vermont and the study’s lead author, said in a news release.

Several factors likely contribute to this problem, such as the lack of specific disease markers or blood tests to diagnose MS, the combination of different genetic and environmental factors responsible for the development of the disease, and the wide range of symptoms associated with the nerve damage observed in MS patients.

In the study, “The Contemporary Spectrum Of Multiple Sclerosis Misdiagnosis,”  Solomon and colleagues — all MS specialists working at four MS academic centers in the U.S. (University of Vermont, Mayo Clinic, Washington University, and Oregon Health & Science University) — pooled data on people they found to be wrongly diagnosed with MS.

It is clear that a way needs to be found to reduce and hopefully eliminate misdiagnoses.

Gladstone Scientist Wins $5.8M NINDS Award for Work in MS and Neurological Diseases

It is good to see this grant is to be used to fund direct research costs.

Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, a Gladstone Institutes senior investigator, has been awarded a multiyear, $5.8 million career grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) for her work on neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

The Gladstone Institutes is a non-profit community of scientists, affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award, and I am extremely grateful to NINDS for their continued support of my research,” Akassoglou said in a press release. “Neurological diseases are a complex problem, and this grant will make it possible for my lab to pursue entirely new solutions for these devastating conditions.”

The award will be used to cover direct research costs, and will be distributed over eight years. Akassoglou is a professor in the department of neurology at UCSF, and she will use the opportunity to further her work into the role of the vascular and immune systems of the brain in neurological diseases like MS.

I like the idea of “entirely new solutions.”

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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