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Research Update

13 December 2017

Significant Results in the fight of Huntington’s Disease

Huntington's Disease (HD) is an inherited disease which affects the areas in the brain which control movement, thinking and emotion. It has a slow progression, and symptoms gradually worsen over time. The disease affects men and women alike, occurring at a rate of about 7-10 per 100,000 in most Western countries.

The exciting results of an experimental drug designed to combat Huntington's disease, has delivered a significant discovery.

Results from a clinical trial involving 46 patients with early Huntington's shows that an injectable drug called IONIS-HTTRx successfully lowered levels of the harmful huntingtin protein in the participants' nervous system.

Read more: The Guardian

Further reading


Daily Mail

Huntington’s Disease News

4 August 2017

Researchers develop set of tools to trace path of proteins linked to Parkinson's disease

As neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease progress, misfolded proteins clump together in neurons, recruiting normal proteins in the cell to also misfold and aggregate. Cells in which this occurs degenerate and eventually die. Being able to keep an eye on the whereabouts of these corrupted proteins is key to unraveling these diseases and developing cures.

A team of researchers has now developed a set of tools to observe, monitor and quantify how misfolded proteins associated with Parkinson's disease enter neurons in laboratory cultures and what happens to them once they're inside. The results will be published in the Aug. 11 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Alpha-synuclein is a protein found in all neurons, where it is thought to be involved in regulating neurotransmitter release. Incorrectly folded alpha-synuclein sticks together, forming fibrous deposits called amyloid fibrils. These are the main components of Lewy bodies, the masses seen in the neurons of Parkinson's patients.

Read more here.


2 August 2017

Round-up of research and other items of interest

by Sue Shapland

From the UK MS Trust site:

Researchers develop new scoring method to predict bleeding risk after stroke

A new scoring method may help predict who is at high risk of serious bleeding after a stroke, according to a study published in the August 2, 2017, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

After a stroke caused by a blood clot resulting in a blockage in a blood vessel in the brain, many people are given medication to prevent further clots from occurring. But these medications also increase the risk of major bleeding problems that can cause death or disability.

For this new scoring method, the researchers looked at people who were taking antiplatelet drugs after an ischemic stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke. These strokes were likely caused by clots that originated in the arteries to the brain or neck. Antiplatelet drugs include aspirin and clopidogrel. They did not include people whose blood clots may have originated in the heart and traveled to the brain, such as people with irregular heartbeats, including atrial fibrillation. The study did not look at anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin.

Read more here

23 October 2017

Tracking daily fatigue fluctuations in multiple sclerosis: ecological momentary assessment provides unique insights Powell DJ1,2, Liossi C3, Schlotz W3,4, Moss-Morris R3,5.

Studies investigating the prevalence, cause, and consequence of MS related fatigue use single measures that imply symptom-stability over time; not gaining information about if, when, and why severity fluctuates.

This study sought to examine the extent of moment-to-moment and day-to-day variability in fatigue in relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and healthy individuals, and identify daily life determinants of fluctuations.

Seventy six participants (38 RRMS and 38 controls) provided real-time self-reports six times daily. 1,661 reports were analysed measuring fatigue severity, stressors, mood, and physical exertion, and daily self-reports of sleep quality. Fatigue fluctuations were evident in both groups; however, fatigue was highest in RRMS, typically peaking in late-afternoon.

Many of the factors in daily life that influence fatigue were similar for both people with and without MS, but physical activity seemed to have a greater  effect  on  people with MS, and a poor night’s sleep had a greater effect on people without MS.

The researchers concluded that a better understanding of the changing levels of fatigue experienced by each person provides opportunities to develop personalised strategies for managing fatigue.

Read more here.


23 May 2017

From the International Progressive MS Alliance site:

Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus)

The first disease modifying therapy for primary progressive MS, Ocrelizumab, has received FDA approval in  the  U.S. Prof. Alan Thompson, Chair of the Alliance’s Scientific Steering Committee and Dean of University College London Faculty of Brain Sciences said, “One cannot underestimate the importance and impact of the very first treatment for primary progressive MS. This is the crucial first step in finding ever more effective treatments for everyone with progressive MS.”

From the newly revamped MS Research Australia (MSRA) site:

Re-purposing for progressive MS - a new trial on Simvastatin A large-scale phase 3 trial will soon begin in the UK. The trial will investigate whether the commonly used and inexpensive cholesterol-lowering drug Simvastatin, could potentially become a treatment for Secondary Progressive MS. This is  a global collaboration costing more than A$10.4 million, with over 1,000 people with MS around the world involved.

Read more here.

Can cognitive therapy treat depression?

People with MS are more likely to suffer from depression than the general community, especially when newly diagnosed. Whilst there are a number of psychological treatments available, only a few are designed specifically for depression in people with MS.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne are conducting  a trial directly comparing two different therapies, a cognitive behavioural therapy, which is a talk therapy that helps individuals learn skills about thinking and behaviour, and a supportive listening therapy, which is another type of talk therapy that involves talking about your problems.

Read more here.

The community knowledge gap about MS

People with MS commonly report that the general public don’t understand their disease. A recent survey of 1,000 people, commissioned by MSRA has shown that:

  • Whilst approximately 7.3 million Australians know someone with MS, only half of all Australians actually know what MS is.
  • Four in ten of those knowing someone with MS were unable to describe what the disease is.
  • More than 50% didn’t realise MS is predominantly diagnosed in young adults (average age of diagnosis being 30)
  • They weren’t aware that MS largely affects women.
  • They have the perception that all people affected by MS could not remain employed.   

These results reaffirm what the MS community already knows; greater awareness is desperately needed.

Read more here.


15 May 2017

From the National MS Society

Study finds links between risk of MS in children and low vitamin D and obesity

New research, partly funded by the National MS Society, found that being overweight and having low blood levels of vitamin D increased the risk for children to develop pediatric onset MS.

The study examined blood samples from 569 non-Hispanic whites with MS from pediatric MS centers around the U.S. and Sweden, and matched them with 16,251 people without MS.

The report states that approximately 5% of people with MS experience symptoms before the age of 18. Whilst there is strong evidence of the relationship between low vitamin D levels and increased risk of adult MS, few studies have looked at whether this applies in pediatric MS.

Scientists from several institutions used genetic risk scores (GRS), based on DNA information, to confirm these links.

These results add to the growing evidence of genetic and environmental factors in the risk of developing pediatric- onset MS. Knowing that both low vitamin D levels and obesity are risk factors has potential implications for preventing MS in children and adults.

Read more here.

25 April 2017

From News Medical Life Science’s web site:

Skimpy sleep followed by ‘catch up’ tied to worse cognition in young adults

Baylor University researchers have found that skimping on sleep, followed by ‘catch-up’ days with long snoozes, is linked to worse cognition – both in attention and creativity – in young adults, particularly, those tackling major projects.

The study, involving interior design students, also challenges a common myth that “the best design ideas only come in the middle of the night”, as researchers found the opposite. “Consistent habits are at least as important as total length of sleep,” study co-author Michael Scullin, Ph.D said.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that young adults have seven to nine hours of sleep each day.

Read more here.


1 March 2017    

When can you safely stop taking disease modifying drugs?

There is very little evidence to suggest who can safely stop taking disease modifying drugs (DMDs). An American study has  compared  the  experiences of people who stopped taking DMDs - those advised to stop and those who chose to stop.

The first group consisted of 77 people with secondary progressive MS with no clinical or MRI signs of MS activity for at least two years. They had been advised to stop treatment (advised group). The second group consisted of 17 people with RRMS who chose to stop taking their treatment (chose group). People in both groups were assessed at the time of stopping DMDs and monitored for recurrence of MS activity (relapse or MRI lesions) for at least one year after.

 Twelve per cent of those in the advised to stop group and 59% of those in chose to stop group had recurrence of MS activity, within two years of stopping treatment.

The investigator reported that it may be safe to stop DMDs  in older people (70 years or older) who have been free of  MS activity for at least two years, although monitoring for recurrence of MS activity is warranted.

However, younger people with relapsing-remitting MS choosing to stop their DMD have a 60% likelihood of further MS activity, underlining the importance of continuing with treatment for this group.

Read more here.


17 February 2017

Promising results from long term studies of stem cell transplants

Two recently published studies reported data on levels of disability in people with MS five years after receiving stem cell transplants.

In one study, researchers sought data from 25 centres which had used a range of stem cell treatment methods to treat people with either relapsing or progressive MS between January 1995 and December 2006. They reported that five years after treatment, just under half of the 281 people for whom data was available had not experienced an increase in their disability.

A second study reported long-term results of stem cell therapy in 24 people with highly active RRMS. After five years, about two thirds continued to show no relapses, no progression and no new lesions.

Both studies acknowledged that to fully assess the risks and benefits of stem cell treatments and understand where they fit into current MS treatment options, we really need evidence from controlled, randomised clinical trials directly comparing stem cell treatments against other treatments in both relapsing-remitting and progressive MS.

Read more here.

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