21 Jan Hope for MS Sufferers on the Horizon?
No one wants to hear the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), but when it happens, it’s important to consider all options for treatment and to understand how best to manage the symptoms. It’s an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the myelin – this is the protective sheath which covers the nerve fibers. This creates communication issues between the brain and the body and over time, the nerves deteriorate or, become damaged permanently. There is no cure currently for MS, although the disease may not be as devastating as people often think. Treatment can at least increase the speed of recovery in between progressive bouts where symptoms will be at their worst. Modern treatment does at least allow for some modification of the course of the disease. As with most health conditions, people will always be affected differently with varying symptoms. At some point, there will be those who are not able to walk independently, while others, will have longer periods of remission between bouts.
- Partial loss or complete loss of vision. Typically, this affects one eye at a time.
- Double vision
- Tremors, tingling, lack of coordination
- Numbness or weakness in the limbs on one side of the body
- Slurred speech
- Bladder or bowel problems
MS is a relapse and remitting disease. New symptoms occur for a period of time, then, dissipate and, recovery can be partial or seemingly complete. Remission periods could last months or even years. When symptoms worse, they typically affect mobility and gait. This can be frustrating and terrifying as independence can seem to lessen.
Risk factors include:
- Age – usually affects people between the ages of 15 and 60 although it can affect anyone at any time. Women are more likely to develop it than men.
- Family history- there is a higher risk when siblings or a parent has the disease
- Infections – the Epstein-Barr infection can lead to a greater risk of developing MS.
- Race- those of Northern European descent
- Climate – it seems to be more common in countries such as Northern US, Europe, Canada, South Eastern Australia
- Other autoimmune diseases – thyroid disease, Inflammatory bowel disease or type1 diabetes.
- Smoking – this may also increase the risk of those when it comes to developing the second stage of MS
It currently affects more than 2.3 million people on a global basis but can be difficult to diagnose and there is no one definitive test for MS. The good news is that it is not fatal and life expectancy is not much different from someone without MS, perhaps, a reduction of seven years. The problem for MS sufferers is that they have to deal with other health issues and this can make life a whole lot tougher. Predicting how MS will impact sufferers is impossible as it will progress differently in each person affected. Statistics show that approximately 20% of people with MS will have only mild to no symptoms following the diagnosis. Approximately 45% will not be severely affected but, most people will experience some disease progression.
Research into stem cells indicates there may be some hope on the horizon. After winning an innovation prize, Robin Franklin, a Professor of Stem Cell Medicine at the Wellcome Trust-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, has been recognized for his research into how the coating of nerve fibers regenerates.
“I am interested in how tissues naturally regenerate and identifying ways to stimulate those mechanisms to assist myelin regeneration in MS. This could both prevent further damage to axons and restore function, which would be particularly important for people living with progressive MS.”
Adipose-derived stem cell treatments are already being given to those with autoimmune diseases including MS. Fat cells are removed from the person’s own body which makes them less likely to be rejected. Stem cells can progressively renew and can be used for cartilage, bones, nerves, muscle cells etc. Adipose tissues have the largest amount of stem cells. Former research of 151 people with MS, revealed that over a 2-4-year period, it was worthwhile adding quality of life with all showing signs of improvement. This offers much hope to MS sufferers going forward.