MS Research Roundup: June 19, 2014
Stem Cell Progress in Mice; Treating Progressive MS; New Website for Progressive Alliance
MS Research Roundup collects items of interest to multiple sclerosis researchers from around the Web. Send us your tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stem Cell Repeat
A familiar set of recent headlines drew attention to two types of experimental stem cell therapies that allowed mice to scamper about again after being nearly paralyzed by an MS-like condition. One paper first made news when it was published online last month. In that study, neural precursor cells made from human embryonic stem cells and injected into the spinal cord seemed to trigger a long-lasting benefit. In a second study, published online in the same journal, Stem Cell Reports, a Connecticut team also started with embryonic stem cells but nurtured them into mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are adult stem cells normally found in the bone marrow. The injected MSCs also appeared to stop the damage and help to restore nerve function, reported Xiaofang Wang from ImStem Biotechnology, based in Farmington, CT, who led the study. They worked better and more reliably in mice than MSCs from human adults, which already is an experimental therapy reserved for people with uncontrollable inflammatory disease. The biggest problem with embryonic stem cells is that they are unlikely to come from the same person and may be incompatible with the recipient’s immune system, Mark Freedman, M.D., said in a May 28 talk at the 2014 CMSC and ACTRIMS meeting in Dallas, TX. Rejection doesn’t seem to be a problem in the first study, and collaborator Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology, told NBC News he doesn’t expect it to be a problem with the MSCs. Other collaborators include researchers in the University of Connecticut lab of Joel Pachter, Ph.D. ImStem is seeking FDA approval for human trials. (CMSC-ACTRIMS Daily Digest, The Independent, NBC News Digital, UConn Today, USA Today)
No Evidence, But Strong Beliefs
Evidence-based medicine has almost nothing to say about whether disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) benefit patients with secondary progressive MS (SPMS), but that did not stop a landslide vote by a roomful of clinicians in favor of continuing the drugs in patients who had no significant bad side effects. The occasion was a staged debate on the last day of the 2014 CMSC and ACTRIMS meeting in Dallas, TX. “You have to do something,” a clinician in the audience said. Ten DMTs, which include seven different anti-inflammatory modes of action, are effective in treating early forms of MS for a majority of patients, reported researchers in a recent synopsis of a meeting last year on the changing landscape of MS management. The most valid treatment strategy is to treat early in hopes of delaying or preventing SPMS, according to the synopsis, but DMTs appear to be far less effective once progressive disease has set in. Researchers worldwide have been studying new treatments, especially concerning the progress of the disease.
In another session, Megan Hyland, M.D., of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York called for better measures of the status and outcomes of patients with progressive MS than the Extended Disability Status Scale. (CMSC-ACTRIMS Daily Digest, European Neurological Review, MedPage Today)
New Website for Progressive Alliance
Three years ago, with a new generation of therapies approved and on the way for relapsing MS, international attention turned to the vexing problem of understanding and treating progressive MS. The International Collaborative on Progressive MS published its agenda of research priorities the next year. Now, the International Progressive MS Alliance has rolled out a new website in advance of awarding its first round of grants in August. The priorities outlined on the site include developing better understanding and more tailored treatment; designing shorter, faster clinical trials; and developing and testing the range and effects of rehabilitation and treatment of disabling symptoms. (Tip from Multiple Sclerosis International Federation)