disease progression

Study of Stem Cell Therapy for Highly Active RRMS Honored by CR Forum

The MIST Phase 2 clinical trial, supporting the potential of hematopoietic (blood cell-producing) stem cell transplant (HSCT) to significantly slow disability progression in highly active relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients, has received a Distinguished Clinical Research Achievement Award from the Clinical Research (CR) Forum. Five years after the transplant, most…

Altered Oligodendrocyte Diversity Contributes to Multiple Sclerosis, Study Suggests

Subpopulations of oligodendrocytes — cells that produce the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers — are altered in patients with multiple sclerosis, a study shows. These findings suggest that oligodendrocyte diversity and the different functions of these subpopulations might have a greater role in the disease than previously thought. The severity of MS varies greatly, and the patient's disability level does not correlate well with the degree of myelin loss. This suggests that other factors contribute to MS severity. One such factor may be that oligodendrocytes are heterogeneous — diverse in makeup and function. For example, oligodendrocytes in mouse spinal cords are known to naturally produce longer myelin sheaths than oligodendrocytes in the mouse brain. Additionally, individual oligodendrocytes have been shown to have different molecular makeups. However, the extent of human oligodendrocyte diversity and its possible contribution to MS pathology remains unknown. Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet and the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine studied the differences of individual human oligodendrocytes from healthy and MS brains to assess their diversity. Specifically, the team examined oligodendrocytes from the white matter areas of post-mortem human brains both from MS and non-MS patients. The team examined the RNA content — the messenger molecule carrying instructions from DNA for the production of proteins — from individual oligodendrocytes. Researchers identified groups of RNA molecules that defined features of oligodendrocytes from healthy human white matter. Some of these groups match those that defined oligodendrocytes in healthy mice. Strikingly, some of these RNA molecules in healthy brains were under-represented in oligodendrocytes from MS brains, whereas others were more prevalent. “We found that oligodendrocytes are a diverse population of cells and that different types are likely to have different functions in the brain,” Charles ffrench-Constant, the study's co-lead author, said in a Karolinska Institutet news release written by Katarina Sternudd. These differences in oligodendrocyte RNA content may indicate different functional states of oligodendrocytes in MS lesions. “The proportions of different resident oligodendrocytes in the lesions are changed, along with their properties, suggesting that they might have important roles in MS,” said Eneritz Agirre, PhD, a study co-author. Furthermore, the researchers believe that this altered diversity in oligodendrocytes in MS may be important to understand disease progression and develop therapeutic approaches. “Understanding which types of oligodendrocytes are most beneficial in repairing myelin will be crucial for maximizing the chances of developing much-needed treatments for MS,” said Anna Williams, PhD, study co-lead author. The team concluded that the changes in different oligodendrocyte subpopulations in MS suggest "a more complex role of these cells in the pathology of the disease, but also in regeneration of new cells,” said Gonçalo Castelo-Branco, PhD, another study co-lead author.

Blood Stem Cell Transplant Better than DMTs at Reducing Risk of Disease Progression in RRMS

Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant is better than disease-modifying therapies (DMT) at reducing the risk of disease progression in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), results from the MIST clinical trial show. The study “Effect of Nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation vs Continued Disease-Modifying Therapy on Disease Progression…

Each Major Risk Factor (Like Genes, Smoking and Obesity) Can Affect Disease Course, Study Finds

Risk factors often associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), such as genetic background, obesity and smoking, contribute independently to the disease’s variability and may be an early influence on progression, a study reported. The retrospective study, “Multiple sclerosis risk factors contribute to onset heterogeneity,” was published in the journal …

Truly ‘Benign MS’ Evident in Only Small Minority of Patients, Large UK Study Reports

Multiple sclerosis (MS) that appears to be "genuinely benign" 15 years after diagnosis is evident in a small number of patients, a large population-based study from the U.K. reports. But, its researchers note, the term “benign” is often not clinically accurate as used, because it is based largely on perceptions of disease impact. The study “How common is truly benign MS in a UK population?” was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. The concept of benign MS is controversial, especially among clinicians. Still, long-term epidemiological studies have consistently identified a small fraction of patients whose MS progresses very slowly over a long span of years. Determining the prevalence of this type of MS in the population has been difficult, as estimates can vary significantly depending of the definition of “benign” that is adopted. Researchers sought to determine an accurate estimate of benign MS in the U.K. population, using a rigorous and comprehensive clinical definition of a truly benign disease. This definition included minimal physical disability (EDSS score of less than 3), and no significant fatigue, mood disturbance, cognitive impairment or interrupted employment in the absence of treatment with disease-modifying therapies over 15 years or more years after symptom onset. They screened an U.K. population-based registry containing data on 3,062 MS patients to identify those with "unlimited walking ability" 15 or more years after diagnosis. A representative sample of 60 patients  from this pool was analyzed (45 women and 15 men, mean age of 57); they had a mean disease duration of 28 years. Nine out of these 60 (15%; 8 women and one men) fulfilled the study’s criteria for truly benign disease. These nine people had a mean age of 27 at symptom onset, a median EDSS disability score of 1.5 (minimal signs of disability), and a mean disease duration of 31 years. "Those nine individuals with truly benign MS all remained in a relapsing–remitting state," the study noted. "However, only two out of nine showed disease arrest within the first decade; the remainder all continued to experience relapses well into their second or third decade of MS," but the rates of such relapses were low. MS in the remaining patients was not classified as benign, mostly due to evidence of cognitive difficulties (57%), and the disease's impact on employment status (52%) with many taking early retirement. Based on these results, a population frequency for "benign MS" under the definitions used was estimated at 2.9%. But the researchers noted that a large proportion of patients (65%; 39 patients out of 60) reported their disease as benign, according to a lay definition. Their self-reported status poorly agreed with the clinical assessments done throughout the study. "There is no accepted definition to offer patients when exploring whether they feel their MS is benign; the definition we chose incorporates the fundamental principles of low impact on a person, absence of complications and a favourable outcome and is in line with definitions provided by third-party support groups," the researchers wrote. Many  considering themselves with benign disease did so based on their "perception" of their disease, the team added, and one that "appeared to be driven as much by mood, fatigue and bladder function as by physical ability."  “In conclusion, after detailed clinical assessment, a small minority of people with MS appear genuinely unaffected by symptoms after 15 years,” the researchers added. They also called attention to the fact that EDSS-based definitions of benign MS and the inconsistency between patient and clinician perception of benign MS compromise the use of the term ‘benign’ in clinical practice. They also emphasize that studying individuals with benign MS “has the potential to uncover clues to mechanisms underlying favorable outcomes in MS, provide insights into new therapeutic targets and have implications for patient counselling, individual patient management and the construct of clinical trials.”