Items posted 2009
Want to know what stem cells are?
In recent years there have been frequent media reports relating to stem cells. Some have dealt with the ethical issues debate about harvesting embrionic stem cells. Others have reported on stem cell research and on individual experience of stem cell treatment. Attention has sometimes been drawn to unsubstantiated claims by agencies offering stem cell treatments, usually at considerable financial cost to the patient.
The Irish Stem Cell Foundation has launched a new website that includes a couple of excellent basic information videos explaining what stem cells are in its 'information for the public' section. The Australian Stem Cell Centre also provides an informative series of short videos dealing with a range of the issues about stem cells on its Stem Cell Channel.
Both of these sites are worth a visit if you wish to get illustrated straight forward basic information about stem cells.
Bucket of Cold Water Thrown on CCSVI Theory
The MS Society's medical advisers are not persuaded by the theory of a CCSVI cause for MS reported below.
The Society's reservations can be viewed at this link.
More Reassuring News Regarding Childbirth & MS
Most studies have confirmed that MS relapses are less frequent for a time following childbirth but none have shown any long term improvement. A new study of the records of 330 women seen at the Nationaal MS Centrum in Belgium showed that the period between diagnosis and a requirement for assistance with walking was significantly longer for women who had children according to a submission to the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry on 24 November.
The median interval for women without children was 8 years; for those with children only before onset, 16 years; for those with children only after onset, 21 years and for those with children before and after onset, 21.5 years.
The study had a number of limitations such as treatments not taken into account or the possibility that women with more aggressive disease may be less likely to have children but, nevertheless, this is more reassuring news for Mums and Mums-To-Be with MS.
Reassuring News for Mums-To-Be with MS
Information collected on over 18 million deliveries, including around 10000 with MS, in the US between2003 and 2006 was analysed and the results published online in the journal Neurology yesterday.
The results confirmed existing evidence of slightly lower birth weight and slightly more cesarean deliveries among Mums with MS but the good news is that any adverse impact of these on the health of the babies was minor.
This is reassuring news for Mums-To-Be and for those considering pregnancy.
Possible New Cause for MS under Investigation
According to an online report on Medical News Today on 26 October 2009, researchers have discovered a possible link between CCSVI and MS. Preliminary research at the Universities of Ferrara and Bologna in Italy showed that abnormalities affecting the flow of blood through veins from the brain occurred more often in persons with MS than in controls. If confirmed in the population as a whole, it would multiply the risk of developing MS for persons with CCSVI by a factor of 43.Researchers at the University at Buffalo in New York will now examine whether MS symptoms could result from CCSVI in a larger scale study. If confirmed it could provide a means of identifying, in advance of any symptoms, those at risk of developing MS and could lead to a surgical treatment for MS.
The full report can be viewed at Medical News Today.
Derry Journal report on woman with MS without bathroom access
'How can they allow me to live like this?' is the striking title of a story in the Derry Journal of 23rd October 2009. Pat Gormley has MS and uses a wheelchair. The Journal reports that she has been living without an accessible toilet, shower and access ramps to her home for almost four years despite having submitted a claim under the Disabled Facilities Grant scheme for a downstairs toilet and ramps. The Journal reports that temporary ramps were installed just days after it queried the matter with the Western Trust. The full story can be accessed at the Derry Journal website.
Free 'Camera Mouse' Software Allows Control of Computer with Head Movements.A team at Boston College has developed a software program called 'Camera Mouse' that allows a person to control a computer using head movements. The software uses a computer's webcam to track a user's head movements and controls the mouse accordingly. The software is free to download and use but only works with Windows Vista and XP, although it will run on a Mac that runs Windows.
According to the Camera Mouse website, "The main audience for this program is people who do not have reliable control of a hand but who can move their head. People with Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, ALS , Multiple Sclerosis, Traumatic Brain Injury, various neurological disorders use this program and its predecessors to run all types of computer software". The software can be downloaded from the website where details and illustrations on how to use the software can also be accessed.
Second Reversal of MS-Like Disease in Mice Reported in One Week
According to online news reports, Dr. Steinman of Stanford University School of Medicine in California and colleagues have discoverd that a widely used blood pressure drug, Lisinopril, reversed EAE, in mice. Dr. Steinman's earleir research contributed to the development of tysabri. Human trials would be necessary to determine whether lisinopril would have a similar effect in humans. Unfortunately, trials are expensive and as it is already marketed by Merk for blood pressure, there may be difficulty in securing financial support for human trials.
Read the MS Society's comment here
MS-Like Disease in Mice Reversed
Scientists at McGill University in Canada have successfully reversed EAE, a MS-like disease, in mice. They artificially fused together two proteins that individually stimulate the immune sytem and discovered that the fused protein reversed this effect. They then extracted B-cells from the mice, added the fused protein and reinjected them back into the mice. The mice went into total remission.
Not all effects on EAE in mice carry over into MS so it is too early to speculate on the possibilities of the new fused protein. However, if replicated in MS, this would be of huge significance for persons in the early stages of MS.
Read the MS Society's comment here .
Online Cognitive Brain Games for MS Community"
An alliance of Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Microsoft, and the US National Multiple Sclerosis Society known as the MS Technology Collaborative, has launched a free suite of online cognitive games for the MS community.
MyBrainGames, available at MyMsMyWay , are online games designed for people with MS by a team of healthcare professionals specializing in MS and cognition, as well as members of the MS community.
The games have varying levels of difficulty and players can select levels to suit their individual abilities. All scores can be saved if the player registers at the site and performances over time can be compared.
A link to the site has also been added to the Useful Links page.
Cari Loder Ends Her Own Life
According to a report in the Sunday Times on 21/06/2009, Cari Loder, a 48 year old former university lecturer with MS committed suicide at her home rather than face the prospect of residential care. The Times reporter says that just days before her death, Cari told a retired doctor, who is a member of Friends at the End , that she was 'absolutely determined that she was not going to go into any kind of residential care'. The report also says that the police are investigating the possibility she may have had assistance.In 1966 she published a book about her belief that she had discovered a treatment for MS, involving a combination of an antidepressant, an amino acid and a vitamin, and its impact on her condition. Eventually a clinical trial was carried out but, although the participants showed slight improvement, the effects were not considered significant. More details are included in an item published on this site in 2003 .
Is There a Higher Risk of MS among Left-handed Women?
There is some evidence that an increased risk of autoimmune disorders is linked to both left-handedness and in-utero exposure to sex hormones. Researchers from the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, used data drawn from a study of 121701 female nurses in the US from 1976 to 2002. A large volume of data was collected and is frequently drawn on for various studies. Among the nurses 216 cases of MS were confirmed. The researchers looked for a relationship between risk of MS and left-handedness. They discovered a 62% greater risk of MS among naturally left-handed nurses compared to naturally right-handed participants. The researchers say that while their results suggest that prenatal exposure to sex hormones may play a role in MS risk, there would need to be an investigation of the relationship between in-utero hormone exposure and hand preference before any conclusions should be drawn.
The study throws no light on whether the same could apply to men.
It was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis (Mult Scler. 2009 May;15(5):587-92).
More Evidence of Adverse Effect of Smoking on MS
Researchers at The Menzies Research Institute, University of Tasmania, Australia, followed nearly 200 persons with MS over a period of about two and a half years. They found that progression of disability was linked with smoking although rate of relapse was not. Giving up smoking is not easy and this may be particularly true of persons with MS, but the knowledge that smoking is likely to lead to a greater progression of disability may provide stronger motivation. The study was reported in the online Journal of Neurology on 9 April 2009.
See also another item on smoking posted in 2008
Lower Cancer Risk with MS
A recent Swedish study, using information from a Swedish general population register, studied the levels of cancer among persons with MS compared to the general population. Over 20,000 persons with MS and over 200,000 persons without were compared with an average follow up of 35 years. They discovered a significant lower overall risk of cancer among persons with MS,. Two exceptions were brain cancer and bladder cancer. The study was published in the journal Neurology (NEUROLOGY 2009;72:1170-1177).
Gender Differences and MS
There is a considerable body of evidence of gender differences in MS. For example overall about twice as many women as men develop MS and there is some evidence that this gender difference is increasing. Evidence is also emerging that this difference does not apply to pre-puberty persons or to persons with primary progressive MS. There is also evidence that vitamin D levels influence MS rates in women but not as significantly in men.
The Accelerated Cure Project Spring newsletter has a a very good article summarising the current knowledge. It is in PDF format and can be accessed at PDF article. The article is on Pages 4, 5 & 7.
A Comprehensive Review of Childhood MS
A comprehensive review of MS in children has been published on the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre website. The article was written by Jean Marie B. Ahorro, MD and Brenda L. Banwell, MD of the Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto. The article covers every conceivable aspect, including the extent of MS in childhood, the genetic factors, immunological studies, environmental triggers, vitamin D, clinical features, diagnosis, course of the disease, symptoms, MRI findings,relapses, treatment and coping. Although the article is evidence based, it is presented in a readable form that can be dipped into for specific topics or read as a whole.
New Independent Website for Younger Persons with MS
George Pepper was 22 when he was diagnosed with MS in 2004. Because he had difficulty in finding persons of a similar age with MS, he created a website, shift.ms , with the help of friends. According to George, the site is designed specifically with young persons in mind and was launched this month. It is designed to allow visitors to talk to other people with MS, to add links to information and videos and to rate and comment on what has been posted. It is an interesting site well worth a visit.
NICE Guidance for Electrical Stimulation Treatment of Drop Foot
Drop foot can occur in patients with conditions such as stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury and is caused by damage to nerves in the brain or spinal cord. It results in a dragging of the foot when walking.
Current treatment options for drop foot include physiotherapy or an ankle-foot orthosis (a specially designed splint that fits under the foot and behind the ankle) to support the lower leg and assist the motion of the ankle and foot. Muscle relaxant drugs such as baclofen may also be prescribed.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (N.I.C.E) has recently (January 2009) issued guidelines for the use of functional electrical stimulation (FES) for drop foot .
FES produces electrical impulses that are designed to replace the defective muscle signals to artificially copy the movements of normal walking. The signals are passed through electrode patches attached to the leg or by implanted electrodes. A switch under the heel triggers the impulses which are powered by an externally worn small unit. Users of the externally applied electrodes have to be trained in their placement and use.
The N.I.C.E guidance advises that the selection of patients for this treatment should involve a multidisciplinary team and clinical governance, consent and audit.
Although not suitable in all cases, this treatment can be very effective and provides a welcome additional option for the treatment of drop foot through the NHS.
The NICE guidance can be downloaded in PDF format from the NICE website.
Positive Results from Small Stem Cell Trial
A small clinical trial involving young people (average age 33 years) with relapsing remitting MS has shown that transplantation of bone marrow stem cells may stop the progression of disability and even reverse the damage that has already been done. This was an early stage trial involving only 21 persons over three years but the results were very promising.
Further information is available on at this link on the MS UK website.
Positive Results for Oral Drug Cladribine
Interferon and other main treatments for MS are administered through injection. Fingolimod, an oral treatment, reported positive results from a Phase 11 trial last year. Cladribine, another oral pill, has now been shown to reduce relapse rates of MS by up to 58% in a phase 111 trial. According to a report on the UK MS website, the developers are expected to apply for registration during 2009, one of the final steps before a drug is considered for availability in the UK.
Dot Kirby has MS and Retires from BBC on Health Grounds
It is reported that Dot Kirby, the familiar BBC NI Health Correspondent, who could be seen delivering her reports with the support of crutches in recent times, was diagnosed with MS 20 years ago and has retired from the BBC.
According to a statement issued by the Equality Commission, her condition has worsened over the last ten years and she left after settling tribunal claims for disability discrimination, victimisation, sex and age discrimination against the BBC. The claims were settled by agreement without any admission of liability by the BBC which denied the claims.
She joined the BBC in 1986 and has been Health Correspondent since 1994.