Researchers Lower the Temperature to Try to Reduce MS Inflammation

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Banner for

I hate the cold. It triggers my bladder and stiffens my legs. When the leaves start to turn in Maryland, I start thinking about the warm weather in Florida.

So, I was interested to read research from the University of Geneva that indicates that exposure to cold may stop, and even reverse, nerve demyelination that occurs in multiple sclerosis (MS).

These scientists applied the concept of life history theory to the overactivation of the immune system in autoimmune diseases such as MS. This theory suggests that an organism normally uses its resources for growth and reproduction, but when its environment becomes hostile, those resources are diverted to saving energy and repelling the external threat. The external threat in this study was cold.

MS symptoms improve in chilly mice

In the study, researchers infected mice with a type of brain inflammation that mimics how MS affects the immune system. Then they put the mice into a colder than normal living environment to see how their bodies redirected resources to fight the cold. Mice generally like temperatures between 30 and 32 C (86-90 F). These mice had their environment lowered to 10 C (50 F). The researchers found that not only did the mice divert resources to help maintain their overall body heat, the heat was taken from the immune system. Once that happened, the immune system decreased its attack on the nervous system, and the MS symptoms improved.

Recommended Reading
Banner for

It’s Flu Vaccine Time Again, So Here’s What You Need to Know

“The animals did not have any difficulty in maintaining their body temperature at a normal level, but, singularly, the symptoms of locomotor impairments dramatically decreased, from not being able to walk on their hind paws to only a slight paralysis of the tail,” study co-author Doron Merkler, a professor at the university’s pathology and immunology department, noted in a press release.

The researchers believe the symptoms in the mice decreased because the cold modulated the activity of monocytes, which are white blood cells that regulate inflammation. By forcing the body to increase its metabolism to maintain body heat, the cold diverted resources away from the immune system. This led to a decrease in harmful immune cells and, therefore, a decrease in symptoms.

To me, a nonscientist, this seems like the way my legs weaken in the summer heat but quickly improve when I jump into a cool swimming pool.

It’s just a mouse model

I’m always reluctant to put too much stock into what mice have to say. Yet this is an interesting concept, and the University of Geneva scientists hope to expand their cold research so that it can be applied in the clinic.

Meanwhile, I’m getting ready to head to Florida soon, where I know I can always find a nearby swimming pool for relief of my heat-related MS symptoms.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

***

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.

Comments

Reg Bavis avatar

Reg Bavis

I have ms digonised in 95 with secondary progressive I find that the cold weather now has more of an effect than it used too my feet are cold all the time and I cannot do anything to warm them is there any way I can help this situation .

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Reg,

I see that others have made some suggestions and I can't do better than what they've written. I hope others will jump in with their thoughts.

Ed

Reply
GEORGE BENTZ avatar

GEORGE BENTZ

I was dxd with MS over 25 years ago. I have a progressive type with no relapses and can not walk with out poles. This past summer I would sit in cold water (while kayaking on the Klickitat river) for 30-45 minutes. This is very cold water that is glacier melt. I would get border line hypothermic. After I was done, the heat felt great as I need to warm up. Once I was back home, my MS symptoms seemed to lessen and these "ice bath" type of therapy was the best I have come up with. I plan to continue swimming this winter which also really helps.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi George,

I love swimming and using a pool to cool off but sitting in glacier melt??? No thanks. But if it works for you, go for it!

Ed

Reply
Penny-Marie Wright avatar

Penny-Marie Wright

I've never tried them but there are socks that use batteries to keep your feet warm. I would try ski or hunting stores as the best place to find them, I think. I can't handle either heat or cold but dressing for the cold is easier than stripping down for the heat. It'd be quite a sight if I did that, eh?

Penny-Marie

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Penny-Marie,

I'm just the opposite. I'd rather strip down in the heat than bundle up in the cold.

Ed

Reply
Carolyn Meehan avatar

Carolyn Meehan

In summer I’ve has to crawl up steps. Anything below 70F I come alive. UNM was doing a study several years ago. I have not heard the results. Maybe if there is no money, no one cares.

Reply
Dori Rocco avatar

Dori Rocco

Those mice must not have had spasticity! LOL!

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Dori,

The research reported the spasticity improved in the mice, but I do hear what you're saying.

Ed

Reply
Melaine avatar

Melaine

Compression socks make a huge difference for me.

Reply

Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.

Video

Dancing Doodle

Did you know some of the news and columns on Multiple Sclerosis News Today are recorded and available for listening on SoundCloud? These audio news stories give our readers an alternative option for accessing information important for them.

Listen Here