MS Research Roundup: December 21, 2014
Neurology Group Calls for Cannabis Regulation Changes; Videos and Podcasts of MS Research and Care; Alan Alda & the MSDF Manifesto
MS Research Roundup collects items of interest to multiple sclerosis researchers from around the Web. Send us your tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neurologists Call for Less Restrictive Medical Marijuana Research
The U.S. government must reclassify marijuana-based products from their Schedule 1 status to enable more research into the risks and benefits for neurological disorders, including MS. So says a new position statement from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). The federal regulations rank marijuana on par with heroin and more dangerous than cocaine, methamphetamine, and oxycodone. Researchers must obtain a Schedule 1 license from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Better scientific evidence is needed to substantiate anecdotal reports of cannabis and its derivatives. Further research will also clarify safety concerns, including long-term use and use in children, said statement author Anup Patel, M.D., with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in an AAN press release. The research is needed, the statement suggests, because of changes in state laws allowing medical marijuana without any quality or labeling standards. Cannabis preparations may vary greatly, and results from studies of one extract or type cannot be extrapolated to others, the statement said. In March 2014, an evidence-based AAN guideline provided support for the use of specific oral and oromucosal forms of cannabis to improve some symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis. In April 2014, the AAN published a systematic review on the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in selected brain and nervous system disorders, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, MS, and Tourette syndrome. (American Academy of Neurology, WebMD)
Videos for MS Research
If you like to see and hear your colleagues discuss MS research and clinical care, then you’re in luck with a recent video trend. Two series have caught our eye. MedPage Today explores “Hot Topics” in multiple sclerosis treatment. The topics range from promising treatments for progressive MS to the risks and benefits of natalizumab (Tysabri, Biogen Idec). In each video, three or four researchers or clinicians discuss the ins and outs of each topic in bite-size segments of about 3 minutes. They’re a great way to get a brief rundown on any hot-button issue in MS. But if you really want to sink your teeth into a particular issue, we recommend the video series by the Elsevier Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre. Each video shows an interview with a single researcher about a particular topic in MS, such as the four-part interview on pediatric MS with Brenda Banwell, M.D., of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Banwell, the senior author of a new study of brain growth in children with MS, is featured in an article we published on Friday. (Elsevier Multiple Sclerosis Research Centre, MedPage Today, MS Discovery Forum)
Podcasts for MS Research and More
Podcasts are a great way to relieve the tedium of the morning commute. While we of course recommend our own podcast—with such excellent interviewees as Wendy Macklin, Ph.D., Paul Matthews, M.D., D.Phil., and Alan Alda—voices of interest to the MS research community cover a broader bandwidth. Many journals, such as Science and Nature, post author podcasts with papers. We recommend Nature’s NeuroPod and the Neurology Podcast of the American Academy of Neurology. Looking for something a little less academic but with a flavor of science? Check out Story Collider, where scientists and science communicators share their personal stories related to science. We also recommend Radiolab, a podcast that tells stories related to science and research. (American Academy of Neurology, Nature)
The Importance of Communicating Clearly
MSDF may have a new manifesto, as articulated by actor and science advocate Alan Alda to host Dan Keller in this week’s podcast (Episode 25): "It seems to be a really, really serious problem that scientists need to collaborate more and more between disciplines, and the problem is they often … don’t understand one another much better than a layperson understands a scientist in a specialized field. So at a certain level, at a certain distance from one another’s work, they’re really in the position of an interested layperson rather than a collaborator, rather than a colleague. And we’re going to have to bridge that gap if we’re going to get the benefits of collaboration. And I’ve heard some horror stories of scientists getting together and not understanding one another. And on the other hand, I’ve heard these really heartbreakingly wonderful stories. When we have a workshop with a range of scientists, scientists from several different fields, one of the wonderful things they say is, ‘This has been great! I got to understand, I got to hear about this guy’s work, and I never knew anything about it before.’ They’re hearing an explanation of another person’s work in terms they might say it to the lay public. It’s acceptable to the other scientists because we don’t ask them to dumb it down. We ask them not to dumb it down, just to make it clear. So they’re getting a clear version of somebody else’s work that doesn’t include the jargon of that specialized field. It’s stripped of its jargon. It’s spoken in plain language, and the emotion, the passion the scientist feels about it is allowed to come out, because that’s part of the human story. … Science is, rather than being passionless, is generated by passion."