MS news notes: Facial surgery, UK MS rate, omega-3, remyelination

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,” a Monday morning column where I comment on multiple sclerosis (MS) news stories that caught my eye last week. Here’s a look at what’s been happening:

Surgical treatment of facial pain

I’ve never heard of surgery being used as an MS treatment, but according to the MS News Today story “Surgery found successful for some MS patients with facial pain,” it has worked for some people with trigeminal neuralgia, a type of nerve damage that causes facial pain. These were patients who either did not tolerate or had a poor response to medications.

In this study of 18 MS patients who underwent a procedure called microvascular decompression, or MVD, 71% achieved a good or excellent outcome compared with 64% who were treated with less invasive treatments. But there were also major and serious complications, including one death, for other patients treated with MVD.

It seems to me that a very serious risk-benefit discussion would be needed with a neurologist before someone with MS would consider this procedure.

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MS rate holds steady in the UK

The news story “MS diagnosis rate constant for 20 years, large UK study shows” reports that the MS incidence rate in the U.K. is holding steady.

The rate of MS seen in that country between 2000 and 2002 was 10.4 per 100,000 person-years compared with 10.6 between 2017 and 2019. You’d think that would be good news. But professor Gavin Giovannoni, a London neurologist who writes the MS-Selfie blog, worries that the National Health Service might use this data to push back on calls for more investment in MS services and staffing at the nation’s hospitals.

On the other hand, according to the Atlas of MS, which tracks MS around the world, “the number of people with MS across the globe has increased from 2.3 million in 2013 to 2.8 million in 2020 and 2.9 in 2023.” While I applaud the recent numbers out of the U.K., I hope that health officials there will consider the much larger increase reported by the Atlas of MS when debating their annual budget for MS treatment and care.

Is there an omega-3 and myelin connection?

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and some vegetables like spinach and broccoli. Some people with MS take omega-3 supplements, believing that it makes them feel better. According to one recent study, they may be doing the right thing.

The new research, reported in “Omega-3 fatty acid transporter vital for myelin sheath production: Study,” indicates that having adequate omega-3 levels may be a key to keeping the myelin coating of some of our nerves in good shape. The researchers report that a certain level of omega-3 molecules are needed to help develop the cells that make myelin in the brain.

This research is based on a mouse study, which I don’t usually comment on. What happens with mice doesn’t always correlate to what happens with people. But the ability to create myelin is of such high interest to people with MS that I’m making an exception to my rule here.

Early study provides more remyelination hope

For me, reducing inflammation and repairing the damaged nerve coatings of people with MS are the holy grail of MS treatments. I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime, but the story “Nanocapsules with retinoic acid may treat MS inflammation: Study” gives me hope that these things will eventually occur for others living with MS.

These researchers think retinoic acid, which helps cells grow and develop, may ease inflammation in people with MS and stimulate the growth of myelin forming cells in the central nervous system. I hope they’re right and that this will lead to further research in this area.

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.


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