MS Patient’s Pick of the Week’s News: Remyelination, Ocrevus, Mushrooms, Heparin, Exercise

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Pick of the Week's News

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

Myelin Regeneration Achieved in Mouse Model of MS

Remyelination is one of the most exciting developments in the treatment of MS.

Therapies aimed at regenerating the myelin sheath can work to restore proper brain activity and may be a viable way of treating multiple sclerosis (MS), according to researchers at the University of California San Francisco.

In the study, “Accelerated Remyelination During Inflammatory Demyelination Prevents Axonal Loss And Improves Functional Recovery,” published in the journal eLife, researchers used mice with MS to understand exactly how remyelination could be triggered.

“The key thing we learned from this study is that if we can design therapies that promote remyelination — especially when myelin has been damaged by inflammation as it is in MS — we can prevent neuronal loss and restore function,” the senior author of the study, Jonah Chan, PhD, said in a news release. “This is something I and other investigators have wanted to promise to MS patients, but we simply didn’t have the data.”

Now, researchers just have to produce a therapy that actually works. Stopping MS is one thing, repairing damage to the myelin sheath crucial to our recovery.

Neurologists Anticipate FDA Approval of Ocrevus as 1st Progressive MS Treatment, Survey Finds

Second guessing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is never a profitable occupation but, perhaps, this anticipation is based more on knowledge than hope.

Neurologists in the U.S. expect — or, at least, highly anticipate — that Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), being developed by Roche as a treatment for both relapsing and progressive multiple sclerosis, will be approved by year’s end, and a sizable number plan on quickly prescribing it, according to a recent update by  Spherix Global Insights  in “RealTime Dynamix: Multiple Sclerosis,” a quarterly report based on responses from over 100 neurologists actively treating MS patients.

Ocrevus is an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody that targets mature B-cells. It is believed that these CD20-positive B-cells target axons and myelin sheaths of healthy neurons, triggering a cascade of immune reactions that lead to MS and disability.

The treatment has been seen in preclinical work to bind to specific B-cells with CD20 markers but not to stem cells and plasma cells, preserving important immune functions in patients. In a Phase 3 study in progressive (ORATORIO, NCT01194570) MS patients, it was reported to significantly reduce clinical disease progression; and in Phase 3 studies in relapsing patients (OPERA I and IINCT01412333) that compared Ocrevus to Rebif (interferon-beta), the treatment was seen to both reduce relapses and significantly delay clinical disability.

It certainly seems to be a promising treatment that needs to be available to patients sooner rather than later.

GeneFo Webinar Explores Potential of Mushrooms to Help Manage MS

I am all for natural medications provided they really do work, and I enjoy eating mushrooms, too.

GeneFo, an MS patient community that provides support, advice, and clinical trial matching, recently co-hosted an online conference with Trent Austin, MD, who reviewed the most updated research and clinical evidence of natural substances — including  medicinal mushrooms, vitamins, biotin and cannabinoids — to inform the public about the potential benefits of these natural resources to alleviate several symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis.

According to a press release provided to Multiple Sclerosis News Today, the use of medicinal mushrooms was the highlight of the lecture.

Medicinal mushrooms long have been used in Asia, but only now are gaining acceptance elsewhere. They are used for a number of health problems, including cancer, and to enhance the immune system.

This is one development that is interesting and well worth watching. Natural medicines tend to come with no or very few side effects.

Heparin for MD Myelin Repair to Be Studied in United Kingdom

Another potential myelin repair therapy, with research being funded by the U.K.’s Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The MS Society in the United Kingdom is funding a new project at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, to examine if  heparin, a drug widely used for stroke patients, can repair neurological damage in people with multiple sclerosis.

The new study, funded with 150,000 pounds (about $183,000 U.S.), from the MS Society U.K., will investigate if a modified low-sulphated form of heparin can reduce the myelin damage seen in MS. Heparin is an anticoagulant (blood thinner).

If the study outcome is encouraging, researchers will further investigate if the modified version of heparin could be moved into clinical trials for MS. The research will run until the end of 2018.

Really? The end of 2018? I think researchers don’t understand how much those with MS are affected as the years click by.

Regular Exercise Found to Repair Damage to Neurons in Brains

Now something we can do ourselves to help repair the myelin damage. Yes, apparently exercises can  trigger a molecule that can help.

Voluntary running triggers a molecule called VGF, a nerve growth factor, that was seen to induce a brain repair mechanism in animals, researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa in Canada report. The findings have important implications for multiple sclerosis (MS) and other conditions caused by damage to the insulating tissue that protects nerve cells.

“We are excited by this discovery and now plan to uncover the molecular pathway that is responsible for the observed benefits of VGF,” David Picketts, senior author of the study and a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, and professor at the University of Ottawa, said in a news release. “What is clear is that VGF is important to kick-start healing in damaged areas of the brain.”

The study, “Voluntary Running Triggers VGF-Mediated Oligodendrogenesis to Prolong the Lifespan of Snf2h-Null Ataxic Mice,” was published in the journal Cell Reports.

Clinical studies have shown that physical exercise protects against brain atrophy, enhances cognitive function, and slows neurodegenerative disease progression and disability. Studies in rodents have confirmed that exercise regimens improve motor and cognitive functions in a variety of neurodegenerative models, including MS. However, understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which exercise halts neurodegeneration or protects against it remains poor.

It’s all very well, but I have enough trouble balancing and standing without muscles failing, and then walking a very short distance with a stick; forget serious exercise.

Tagged .

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. Harry Crawford says:

    I Like the comment on time is important to MS patients. Of course, this is something the FDA could care less about. Those of us waiting for Ocrevus know this well. I’m not sure I understand why the FDA can’t take proven information from other countries and use it instead of wasting valuable time and funds that could be used for further progression in finding cures for diseases. Several other countries, some of which are being taught by our own doctors (Dr.Burt from Northwestern University) have been using stem cell treatment in MS with very positive results for several years. This is a shame. Thank you FDA NOT!!!!

    • Tim Bossie says:

      Time is crucial Harry. We do hope that the FDA may fast track this, by learning what other countries have done – with tremendous success, so that many people can benefit from it.

  2. Christine says:

    Hi Ian, Thanks for the updates. I’m always perplexed when I hear of these studies that indicated exercise can help repair myelin damage. I exercised all my life and it did not prevent me from getting ms. These days I try to exercise as best I can but because of ms I’m very limited. No researcher has ever explained why people who exercised all their lives still get disabled. Any thoughts on this?

    As for mushrooms, sometimes I wish I had partake in the psychedelic mushrooms my friends offered me back in the 1970s, maybe it would have protected me from ms!!

    • Tim Bossie says:

      Hi Christine! Thank you for the comment and the chuckle. Who knows, maybe mushroom use in the 70’s could have helped? 🙂 Keep exercising when you can and continue to keep that wonderful sense of humor.

  3. Dr Mark Hughes says:

    One serious error in the piece about mushrooms: “Natural medicines tend to come with no or very few side effects”. This is a complte fallacy, particularly as many, if not most, medicines are derived from “natural” sources. There is no such thing as a safe medicine, be it from natural or pharmaceutical company sources and many so-called natural therapies do nothing more than exploit the placebo effect.

    • Ian Franks says:

      Thank you for your comment. The sentence to which you are referring was not in the original article, it was not stated as a fact but is my opinion expressed in my own column as a comment at the end of the extract. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I accept that your views about side effects are different to mine and are likely to remain so.

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