An incurable affliction that usually leads to disability, multiple sclerosis (MS) causes a body’s natural immune system to mistakenly attack myelin sheath, which serves as a protective cover around nerve cells. When this occurs, nerve signals either slow down or stop completely, causing several troubling symptoms, including muscle weakness, loss of coordination, vision problems, tremors, cognitive problems, paralysis and more.
To date, there is no cure for MS; however, doctors do have effective strategies to help modify the disease course, manage symptoms, improve function and treat flare-ups.
Every day, scientists conduct research they hope will bring a cure for MS. That said, more often than not, these studies yield disappointing results. On the other hand, one recent study out of Northwestern University seemed to unveil a potential treatment that could hold big promise.
In what MS experts are calling a potentially major breakthrough, researchers utilized nanoparticles to “fool” overactive immune systems into ceasing their attacks on myelin. Roughly two hundred times smaller than a strand of human hair, these particles were made from the same materials that make up dissolvable stitches. By fooling the immune systems into misidentifying the injected nanoparticles as dead blood cells, this treatment technique seemed to calm down myelin-attacking T-cells which are the primary cause of flare-ups.
While this new research seems promising, it’s important to note that the research was conducted on mice. Furthermore, although the nanoparticles successfully prevented flare-ups for up to 100 days; they don’t hold the power to cure MS.
Getting Relief Today
In the near future, medical experts hope to unleash the next generation of MS treatments; however, today, patients are limited to the following agents which are used to modify the course of the disease and improve the quality of patients’ lives:
FDA-Approved MS Medicines
- Extavia (interferon beta-1b)
- Gilenya (fingolimod)
- Novantrone (mitoxantrone)
- Rebif (interferon beta-1a)
- Tysabri (natalizumab)
- Aubagio (teriflunomide)
- Avonex (interferon beta-1a)
- Betaseron (interferon beta-1b)
- Copaxone (glatiramer acetate)
Unfortunately, medicinal treatments typically come with unpleasant side-effects; which is why many MS patients opt for non-medicinal treatments that reduce the severity of some of the disease’s debilitating symptoms. One such treatment uses oral appliances to adjust a patient’s bite to relieve pressure on critical blood vessels and nerves that support brain function. According to Dr. Kevin Berry of the Craniofacial Diagnostic Center in Denver, Colorado, although this technique isn’t a cure; it does provide significant relief to many MS sufferers.
“My colleagues like Dr. Winber and Dr. Stack are making some amazing progress in helping patients get some of their freedom back,” he said. “Oral appliances can’t cure these diseases, but they can definitely improve quality of life.”
An Ongoing Struggle
While scientists continue to make advances in their search for an MS cure, the progress is slower than most would like. That said, modern sufferers are enjoying access to an expanding number of medicinal and non-medicinal treatments which offer them a much higher quality of life than what was available in years prior.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Ryan Lawrence writes for Off-Topic Media. Photo by Walkerma. Special thanks to Dr. Kevin Berry of the Craniofacial Diagnostic Center in Denver, Colorado.