Why do we need to talk about MS right now?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) can seemingly come out of the blue threatening to change one’s life forever. In absence of a cure, potent new drugs, public awareness and support can help patients and families to adapt and make the most out of life.
Consider this: you’ve been a keen runner since your twenties or enjoyed a rigorous game of badminton every now and then. Your colleagues loved your sharp wit and admired your drive.
And then something happens.
You’re still you, but the world is looking at you differently. You find yourself dragging your feet, you feel drowsy at work and people are getting impatient. Moving from one room to another can turn into a project and the Black Dog becomes your companion. No, not a friendly Labrador, but depression.
These are just some of the things multiple sclerosis (MS) does to its victims, who not so long ago were just like anyone else.
MS tricks our immune system to attack our central nervous system that carries signals around the body.
It damages the protective nerve-coating called myelin in our brains and spinal cords, rendering patients partially disabled and causing a host of symptoms, including fatigue and diminished cognitive functions over the years.
Currently over 2.5 million people live with the condition worldwide and we are still looking for its cause and a cure.
Disease modifying drugs are getting better, thanks to ongoing research
It’s not all doom and gloom. March is MS Awareness Month in the US, while the UK holds its own MS Awareness Week at the end of April, so it’s a good moment to focus on the disease and draw attention to scientific achievements on the road to defeating Multiple Sclerosis.
Our team at Sparrho are keen to highlight research and its applications that make it easier for people to live with MS.
Scientists are busy dissecting mechanisms controlling the progress of the disease and results recently translated into some game-changing drugs. Over the last few weeks we have focused in our 3 Minute Digests on science that can be turned into therapies limiting the progress of MS:
- how the male sex hormone testosterone can protect against MS;
- how treatments designed for other illnesses — like deep cranial magnetic brain stimulation for depression — can be utilised to treat the chronic fatigue that comes with MS;
- how nanocrystals will be able to reverse the nerve damage caused by MS; and
- monoclonal antibodies used to precisely target MS on the cellular level.
Awareness helps to keep people in jobs, support keeps them socially integrated
While the cure remains elusive, research keeps yielding disease modifying drugs with ever better impacts on patients’ day to day lives. Patients and families await the results of ongoing or scheduled medical trials, hoping to see new, potent medications.
Within the last 12 months the FDA and then EU and Canadian authorities have licensed a breakthrough drug, ocrelizumab, that for the first time offers treatment to Primary Progressive MS patients.
People who have this rarer, but more severe MS-variant, have now a drug that can slow down the gradual degradation caused by the illness. Anecdotal evidence suggests wheelchair-bound people were able to take a few steps after treatment.
Medication helps other MS-sufferers by reducing the severity and frequency of relapses in the case of the relapsing forms of the disease.
In the quest for the cure, there is still a lot to find out about the origins of this illness. But in the meantime, awareness by the wider public of symptoms and the daily routines of MS patients can ensure that we keep people included in the world of work and social life as long as possible — and this is why we need to talk about MS right now.
Do you have MS science or stories to share with the world? We’re welcoming guest blog submissions all of March and April to share with Sparrho’s global community in 150+ countries— simply email Endre Szvetnik, our Senior Editor, at email@example.com, for more details.