MS News Notes: Climate Change, MS Progression, Brain Shrinkage

Columnist Ed Tobias comments on the week's top MS news

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by Ed Tobias |

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Welcome to “MS News Notes,” where I comment on multiple sclerosis (MS) news stories that caught my eye last week. Here’s a look at what’s happening:

Study reports climate change makes MS symptoms worse

Climate change may lead to more perils than rising oceans, harsher storms, and melting ice caps. It can also have a direct impact on people with MS and other illnesses.

In the MS News Today article “Climate Change Risk to MS Patients: Worse Symptoms, More Relapses,” Lindsey Shapiro reports on a review of 364 studies into temperature, disease, and pollution changes from the past 32 years.

The result: “Temperature fluctuations and extreme weather events were associated with changes in a number of neurological conditions, including symptoms for MS patients,” Shapiro writes. Poorer air quality, also a result of climate change, was associated with an increased risk of an MS relapse.

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Slowing progression and reducing relapses with a supplement

Neuroaspis plp10 is a dietary supplement that contains a combination of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and several antioxidants, namely vitamin E and gamma-tocopherol. PUFAs can be found in fish and nuts.

In a proof-of-concept trial reported by MS News Today’s Marisa Wexler in “Add-on Supplement May Bolster Interferon Therapies for RRMS,” researchers say adding this supplement to some existing treatments helped reduce relapses and slow MS progression.

An experimental therapy hopes to halt MS progression

Vidofludimus calcium is a small molecule that interferes with the normal metabolism of T-cells and B-cells, which are immune cells that drive inflammation in MS. This experimental treatment works by inhibiting an enzyme that is essential for these cells’ proliferation, making them eventually die.

The MS News Today article “2 Years of Vidofludimus Calcium Thwarts Disability Progression: Data” reports that only a few patients treated with continuous vidofludimus calcium for two years developed confirmed disability worsening. Those whose disability did worsen were on the lower end of what would be expected with approved MS medications.

If you want to know how to talk to a patient, talk to a patient

What’s the best way for a neurologist to speak with a patient about the brain shrinkage that’s a part of MS?

A team of doctors and researchers who wanted to know the answer to that question did something pretty unique in medical research — they asked some patients. In meetings and workshops that spanned two years, the medical people put their heads together with 26 people who live with MS. They came up with about a dozen recommendations, which you can read about in Marisa Wexler’s MS News Today article “MS Patients Help Steer Guidelines for Talks About Brain Volume Loss.”

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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Kathryn Pasquini avatar

Kathryn Pasquini

MR. Tobias, How will you know when your brain is shrinking? Thanks, Kathryn Pasquini

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Kathryn,

Brain atrophy can be seen on an MRI. Take a look at my answer to Chastity Stanfield about this with a link to more info.


chasity Stanfield avatar

chasity Stanfield

Ive had MS since 2011 I had no idea about brain shrinkage?

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Chasity,

I'm sorry you weren't told about this when you were diagnosed. Brain atrophy, or shrinkage, is one of the reasons many neurologists think it best to start a disease-modifying therapy soon after diagnosis, rather than waiting for more obvious, physical symptoms to appear. As my neurologist puts it "time is brain." Here's some more info for you:


Kelly Burke avatar

Kelly Burke

I was diagnosed with RRMS is 1988. I am currently on Ocrevus (for 2 years). MRI's show white matter is fairly stable ( I have multiple lesions/plaque in my brain and spinal cord). The":gray matter" is a different story. Brain shrinkage for the last 2 years. Frontal lobe problems - starting cognition issues for this past year. I don't seem to have much support from my neurologist on finding possible alternative medine to add which might be helpful. My mother has vascular dementia and watching her decline is scaring me. I know I don't have Vascular dementia.......but......I have a lot of the cognitive problems and others.
I am not sure what my question is. :-) I do read your column and MS Today. thank you, Kelly Burke

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for being one of my readers. Ocrevus is one of the disease-modifying treatments that's used to try to limit brain atrophy but there are others, such as Lemtrada. Still others are in the works. I'm not a healthcare professional so I can't suggest anything specifically but it might be worthwhile to ask of a switch of DMTs might help.



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