MS Patient’s Pick of the Week’s News: Myelin, Posture, ‘Rare’ Molecule, T-cells, CBDs

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Pick of the Week's News

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This is my Pick of the Week’s News, as published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

Study of Myelin-producing Cells a Step Forward for MS, Other Neurological Disorders

Isn’t it strange how often in the world of science, something of importance is found in an unconnected study? Here, they found something that could benefit MS while looking at rabies.

A study found that the cells responsible for the production of myelin selectively introduce a myelin-insulating layer in a particular set of neuronal axons in the brain’s white matter.

This represents a step forward in the basic mechanisms that may underlie neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis. Also, a newly developed method to visualize these cells will help scientists investigate demyelinating diseases.

The study, “Rabies virus-mediated oligodendrocyte labeling reveals a single oligodendrocyte myelinates axons from distinct brain regions,” was recently published in the journal Glia.

Glial cells are a type of cell found in the central nervous system. Although they are not neurons, they have crucial functions: maintaining homeostasis, forming myelin, and providing support and protection for neurons.

In the brain, there are three kinds of glial cells: oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, and microglial. The major function of oligodendrocytes is to form myelin, the insulator layer protecting neuronal axons and increasing the velocity of neuronal impulses.

I find this encouraging as any step forward in the understanding of how the neurological system works must be welcomed.

Degree of Posture Difficulties in MS Linked to Areas of Nervous System Most Damaged by Disease

This is an area that is of particular interest to people who cannot stand or walk as upright as they used to, or fall easily.

Posture control is a complex skill, requiring different areas of the nervous system to work well and to work together — but the damage caused by multiple sclerosis complicates such nervous system multi-tasking, leading to postural problems and the well-established tendency for MS patients to fall.

Several neurological systems are known to control motor skills and posture: the pyramidal system, composed of long nerve fibers that start in the brain and terminate in the brainstem or spinal cord; the cerebellar system, which is responsible for coordination and precision movement; and the sensory system, which allows the brain to interpret signals from the immediate environment.

The study, “Static Posturography and Falls According to Pyramidal, Sensory and Cerebellar Functional Systems in People with Multiple Sclerosis,” published in the journal Plos One, looked at specific neurological functional systems and how they affect posture control parameters and the incidence of falls in MS patients.

MS patients with disease-related damage only to the pyramidal system had less postural stability than patients with cerebellar and sensory impairments. But the addition of sensory impairments to pyramidal dysfunction did not worsen a person’s postural control. Not surprisingly, patients with damage to only a single neurological system showed better stability compared to those with multiple system impairment.

During my recent visit to Moscow, it was established that I do have a localized degree of spinal deformity.

‘Rare’ Molecule in Immune System Turns Out to Be Common, and May Be Part of What Goes Wrong in MS

Now this, I hope you will agree, is interesting; a so-called ‘rare’ type of immune molecule has now been discovered to be quite common.

Researchers have discovered that a type of immune molecule — called “spliced epitopes,” once believed to be very rare  — in fact makes up a large part of the molecules labeling cells as belonging to the body, and those that are invaders. The finding may well change our understanding of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.

The study, “A large fraction of HLA class I ligands are proteasome-generated spliced peptides,” recently published in the journal Science, may explain both the great flexibility of the immune system and its inclination to err. This new view of the immune system may advance research not only into MS, but also in other immune-related areas, including cancer.

When cells of the immune system scan their surroundings for invading microbes, they are not able to “see” an entire bacterium or virus. Instead, they recognize protein fragments.

Earlier studies found that some of these protein pieces consisted of two parts fused together. While working to map cancer mutations, researchers at Imperial College London, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health took a new approach to map the surface of cells.

To their surprise, they discovered that fused proteins — which researchers refer to as spliced epitopes — made up nearly one-third of such fragments on human cells.

“While we were aware of the existence of these combined epitopes, we always considered them to be rather rare,” Dr. Michele Mishto at the Berlin Institute, the study’s senior author, said in a press release. “However, our results suggest that they are very frequent and are a key element in the immune response. Finding out their exact function and mode of operation may change our understanding of the immune system.”

Just how something that has now been established as being common can have been considered as rare is beyond me, but then, I am no scientist.

Relapses in MS Patients Using Gilenya May Be Result of Changes Within T-cells, Study Reports

Now this looks as though this may, hopefully, be the start of our understanding of the Gilenya relapse issue.          

Changes in the composition of certain immune system cells may be associated with relapses in multiple sclerosis patients being treated with Gilenya (fingolimod), according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The study, “Altered T Cell Phenotypes Associated With Clinical Relapse Of Multiple Sclerosis Patients Receiving Fingolimod Therapy,” was conducted by researchers in Japan.

In MS patients, immune cells called T-cells penetrate the brain and react against the myelin coating that protects and supports neurons. But before this autoimmune response occurs, T-cells undergo certain migratory steps.

There are currently two approved MS drugs that target the migration of immune cells: Gilenya and Tysabri (natalizumab).

Gilenya acts by inhibiting the movement of T-cells from secondary lymphoid organs, and by decreasing the number of central memory T-cells (TCM), which are mediators of inflammation. Clinical trials have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing clinical relapses.

But certain studies suggest that Gilenya does not lower the number of TCM cells in the peripheral blood (blood that flows to the extremities) sufficiently, and the medication is associated with relapses during treatment. But whether these relapses are caused by peripheral blood levels of TCM cells or other mechanisms is still unclear.

It will be good for everyone involved, the manufacturer, the medical profession and the users, to put this behind them.

AXIM Moving Ahead with Testing of Cannabinoid Products, Including Chewing Gum for MS Patients

The testing of products derived from marijuana that may help people with MS and other diseases is set to continue, thanks to private funding.

AXIM Biotechnologies  announced it has secured financing from private sources to continue its testing of medical cannabinoid (CBD) products as potential treatments for multiple indications, including pain and spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis.

Specifically, AXIM is testing pharmaceutical delivery systems and active ingredients for its medical marijuana line.

“This financing provides us with the opportunity to boldly continue our efforts in the extremely promising and intricate space of cannabinoid-based therapeutics,” George E. Anastassov, MD, AXIM Biotechnologies’ CEO, said in a press release. “We’re pleased that our investors have the full trust that we do in our executive team and advisory board … leaders with proven track records in the multiple indications our company is developing products for.”

One of the company’s most promising therapeutics is MedChew Rx, a chewing gum containing cannabinoids, being developed to address pain and muscle spasticity in MS patients. The gum is designed to offer more consistent relief than existing cannabis-derived products meant to be smoked or eaten.

I have been asked if I’d take medical marijuana and, quite honestly, the question has gone unanswered. This is not because of any awkwardness on my part but the fact that it would be unlikely to benefit me at the moment. If faced with severe pain, the answer may well be yes.

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 www.50shadesofsun.com. 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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2 comments

  1. Rene says:

    Just to thank you so much for keeping us updated on both the research as well as your personal thoughts and journey. I find it extremely interesting and helpful. Please continue.

    • Tim Bossie says:

      You are so welcome Rene! Thank you for your comment and encouragment! We will continue to try and deliver the best content and information for those who suffer with MS. 🙂

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