MS Patient’s Pick of the Week’s News: Immunity, Marijuana, Late-onset, Genetics and Reimbursements

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

Immune System May Harbor Natural Way of Fighting MS, Other Autoimmune Diseases

A genetic key to a possible natural way of battling MS could be worth further work.

A variant in the TYK2 gene, which encodes an immune system protein, may work to protect people from autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis, without overly depressing the body’s ability to fight opportunistic infections, researchers at the University of Oxford report.

Their study, “Resolving TYK2 Locus Genotype-To-Phenotype Differences In Autoimmunity,” was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Autoimmune diseases are characterized by overly active cells of the immune system, which react against the body. For that reason, current treatments for MS and other autoimmune disorders include effects that weaken the immune system, but these therapies leave patients vulnerable to infections and other illnesses.

To understand which molecular mechanisms could help balance immune system activity, researchers investigated genetic variants, influencing the function of a gene called TYK2.

The protein produced by this gene (with the same name) plays a crucial role in maintaining a person’s immunity, as it contributes to fighting off infections or cancer. However, this protein also can promote the development of autoimmune disorders.

I would say that anything that can be done to protect people from autoimmune disorders, while preserving immunity from other infections, is a step forward.

Testing Stages of Marijuana Gum to Treat Spasticity in MS Can Be Followed Online

What next? Now, it seems, we will be able to monitor stages of research from the comfort of our  armchairs.

Medical Marijuana announced that Axim Biotechnologies, a cannabinoid-based product developer in which it owns a strategic interest, has released a product pipeline chart highlighting development timelines for its cannabinoid-based therapeutics, including those for  multiple sclerosis patients.

The chart illustrates the stage each drug is in, from preclinical testing to, eventually, applications for regulatory approval, the diseases and their symptoms that each is meant to treat, and an anticipated market introduction date.

Among the products spotlighted is the first patented cannabinoid controlled-release chewing gum, Med-Chew 1401, to treat pain and spasticity in MS patients. Axim anticipates starting a proof-of-concept Phase 2a clinical trial of the gum next year, and its possible market release in 2018 or 2019.

Late-Onset MS Patients More Likely to Progress Quickly to Disability, Study Says

Is it any surprise that late-onset patients tend to become disabled quicker than early-onset ones? I would have thought this is simply a difference between the abilities of younger and older people to fight the disease.

People with late-onset multiple sclerosis tend to more rapidly rise in disability scores than younger patients with-early onset MS, according to a study in MS patients in Kuwait that compared their scores during follow-up consultations.

Typically, the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis occur between the ages of 18 and 40, with an estimated 20 percent of all MS patients experiencing first symptoms after the age 40.  But late-onset MS appears to be increasing in the general population, researchers said in their study, “Is Time to Reach EDSS 6.0 Faster in Patients with Late-Onset versus Young-Onset Multiple Sclerosis,” published in the journal Plos One.

Later onset disease also cabe a diagnostic challenge, since its clinical presentation and course seems to be different from those with earlier onset MS. Few studies have traced the natural progression of late-onset disease.

This question has to be asked: Does research money have to be wasted on finding out what should be obvious to all?

Men and Women Seen to Differ in Genetic Susceptibility to MS and Its Progression in Study

Ah, now this is more like it! Research that has found something new and gender-specific.

Researchers in Russia found for a first time an association between variants in GAL, a gene that codes for the galanin protein, and multiple sclerosis. Importantly, they also found that this association is sex specific.

The study, “Single-nucleotide polymorphism rs948854 in human galanin gene and multiple sclerosis: a gender-specific risk factor,” was published in a special issue of the Journal of Neuroscience Research dedicated to research into brain differences, at all levels, between men and women.

Galanin is a neuropeptide encoded by the GAL gene that is widely expressed in the brain, spinal cord, and gut of humans and other mammals. Evidence from recent studies points to elevated levels of the galanin protein in post-mortem brain samples of MS patients.

Dr. Victoria Lioudyno with the Pavlov Department of Physiology, Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg, and colleagues compared the frequency of “more active” and “less active” variants of the DNA sequences that control expression of galanin in 111 MS patients and 115 healthy matched controls.

Could this, I wonder, play any part in why twice as many women get MS than men?

Newer MS Drugs May Weight on US

Is it any surprise that such a high percentage favor reimbursement in full or in part? No? I didn’t think so, either.

A cost-effectiveness analysis of reimbursement recommendations for four relatively new multiple sclerosis treatments made by agencies in four countries — Australia, Canada, Sweden, and the U.K. — found overwhelming support (88 percent) for either full or restricted reimbursement for each therapy.

The analysis, performed by the Decision Resources Group, is likely to inform the work of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Research (ICER) and the California Technology Assessment Forum, which are assessing disease-modifying MS therapies in the U.S.

The analysis included 25 health technology assessment decisions in those countries for Lemtrada (alemtuzumab)Aubagio (teriflunomide)Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), and Plegridy (pegylated interferon beta 1a).

It is interesting to see that decision-makers in the U.S. are made aware of decisions being made in other countries.

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.


Debra Cazier avatar

Debra Cazier

Great information Ian. I appreciate the summary. It allows my brain to better understand some of the options & studies being done.
Thank you.


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