A new study has shown that a protocol for treating Multiple Sclerosis with stem cells is safe. According to the researchers, the potential for using stem cells in Multiple Sclerosis therapy warrants further investigation. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.
Stem cells – and specifically, mesenchymal stem cells, have been increasingly used in the treatment of immune and inflammatory conditions. Based on the success that has been seen in these areas, scientists reasoned that mesenchymal stem cells may also represent a useful approach to treat Multiple Sclerosis, a neurological disease that involves the abnormal attack by the immune system on the myelin sheath that insulates nerves and allows nerve cells to communicate effectively and efficiently with one another.
To test this idea, the scientists used umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells in 20 Multiple Sclerosis patients. The patients were given intravenous injections of the stem cells each day for seven days. The researchers evaluated the patients – with both neurological testing and nervous system imaging – at baseline, one month after treatment, and one year after treatment. The researchers found that the stem cell treatment improved neurological scores in patients and that lesions in the brain and cervical spinal cord were inactive one year after the stem cell injections. There were no serious adverse side effects associated with the treatment.
Based on these findings, it is possible that stem cells will provide a useful treatment option for those with Multiple Sclerosis. With more research, we will better understand exactly how stem cells can be used to help this population of patients.
Reference: Riordan, N.H. et al. (2018). Clinical feasibility of umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Journal of Translational Medicine, 16(57), 1-12.
Four out of five people with multiple sclerosis experience muscle spasticity. Muscle spasticity causes increased muscle tone, uncontrollable muscle contractions, and spasms. Like severe muscle cramps, muscle spasticity can be quite painful and is one of the most troubling symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Despite being so common and so troublesome, multiple sclerosis patients with muscle spasticity have few effective treatments options. In many cases, the muscle spasticity continues even after treatment with drugs such as baclofen or tizanidine. Not only are these drugs largely ineffective, in many cases they cause substantial side effects.
Marijuana has long been known to exert a muscle relaxing (anti-spasmodic) effect. As medical marijuana is becoming legal in more jurisdictions, researchers are now carefully studying the effects of the substances within marijuana. One important example is a study conducted by Spanish researchers. In 2010, Spanish drug authorities approved the use of an oral spray that contains a combination of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), two active substances found in marijuana (Cannabis sativa). Spanish authorities approved the use of this drug for multiple sclerosis patients with moderate to severe muscle spasticity who did not benefit from other antispasmodic drugs.
Dr. Lorente Fernández and other Spanish researchers were interested in learning whether this combination of THC and CBD was able to help multiple sclerosis patients with severe muscle spasticity. The scientists found that the combination of substances found in medical marijuana was effective in 80% of patients they examined. What is striking about this finding is that every patient included in this study had failed to find relief from other medical treatments of spasticity. In other words, they had difficulty in treating muscle spasticity. When viewed in those terms, an 80% effectiveness rate is extremely impressive.
Some patients withdrew from treatment because they felt that THC/CBD did not help them within the first 30 days of starting treatment or some experienced dizziness or weakness.
Muscle spasticity is one of the most common, most troubling, and most difficult to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. While traditional medical treatments often fail, the substances in medical marijuana may offer hope. This study illustrates that 4 out of 5 multiple sclerosis patients with difficult to treat muscle spasticity achieved relief from a combination of THC and CBD, substances found in medical marijuana.
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Reference: Lorente Fernández et al. (2014). Clinical experiences with cannabinoids in spasticity management in multiple sclerosis. Neurologia. 2014 Jun;29(5):257-60.
Of all conditions that affect the central nervous system, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most common in young adults. The severity of multiple sclerosis varies considerably and can affect almost every organ system in the body affecting eyesight, bowel function, bladder function, and sexual function. Multiple sclerosis may cause cognitive problems, depression, seizures, fatigue, and pain. Most people with multiple sclerosis will have a relapsing-remitting course, which means they will have periods of relative health punctuated by flare-ups of the condition. About one out of ten people with the condition will have primary progressive multiple sclerosis, which means once the disease occurs it almost constantly causes symptoms and progresses over time.
Multiple sclerosis appears to be an inflammatory condition that affects the covering around nerves. During acute flareups/exacerbations, physicians usually prescribe a powerful steroid medication such as methylprednisolone to combat the inflammation. Patients with multiple sclerosis generally always require some sort of treatment to help manage their immune system. No fewer than 15 immune modulating treatments have been used to treat multiple sclerosis, none of which provides a cure. As such, researchers are seeking new and innovative ways to treat this potentially debilitating condition.
Researchers at the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York chose to focus their research efforts on a particular type of stem cell, namely bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells. The researchers harvested these cells from the patients themselves (autologous stem cells). Then, in their laboratory, scientists used various means to prompt the cells to become neural progenitors. A neural progenitor cell is a cell that can become any of the three main types of brain cells: neurons, astrocytes, or oligodendrocytes. Incidentally, oligodendrocytes are believed to be most affected in multiple sclerosis.
Harris and co-authors at the Tisch Center enrolled six patients with progressive multiple sclerosis. These six patients had failed to find relief from other conventional multiple sclerosis treatments. The researchers provided between 2 to 5 infusions of neural progenitor cells into the spinal fluid. The multiple sclerosis patients treated with the cells tolerated the treatment very well. No serious adverse events occurred, nor were there any safety concerns during treatment. Impressively, four of the six patients—for whom no other multiple sclerosis treatment worked—had a measurable clinical improvement after stem cell treatment.
Based on the results of this clinical study, the scientists concluded that neural progenitor cells created from autologous mesenchymal stromal cells were safe to use in patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. Moreover, the beneficial effect witnessed in two-thirds of treated patients suggests that these cells may be able to help patients with even the most severe and difficult-to-treat forms of multiple sclerosis. Of course, additional testing is required before this treatment becomes commonplace, but the results of this first-in-human clinical study are extremely encouraging.
Reference: Harris et al. (2016). Clinical safety of intrathecal administration of mesenchymal stromal cell-derived neural progenitors in multiple sclerosis. Cytotherapy. 2016 Dec;18(12):1476-1482.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating neurological condition. MS causes nerve cells to become dysfunctional. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary from person to person and over time; however, one of the most common symptoms of MS is muscle spasticity. More than 80% of patients with MS have some degree of muscle spasticity.
Muscle spasticity causes increased muscle tone. Affected muscles contract even though the person is not trying to contract them. Patients may also experience uncontrollable muscle jerking and spasms. These muscle contractions can be quite painful and interfere with daily activities. In fact, about one in 20 multiple sclerosis patients with muscle spasticity are completely disabled because of it.
It can be difficult to treat muscle spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis. Physicians may prescribe baclofen, tizanidine, or dantrolene for muscle spasticity; however, these treatments are only mildly effective and may cause troubling or serious side effects. Baclofen may cause muscle weakness, tizanidine may cause severe dry mouth, and dantrolene is toxic to the liver, for example. Researchers are continuously looking for ways to help multiple sclerosis patients to reduce muscle spasticity.
Cannabinoids are the biologically active chemicals found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids have been used successfully for various medical purposes. For example, these agents have been used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and to stimulate appetite in patients with cancer. Patients with multiple sclerosis have reported that hemp extract helps relieve symptoms. Moreover, research studies have shown cannabinoids can protect nerve cells against damage. Based on these findings, researchers conducted a clinical trial to study the effect of cannabinoids on muscle spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis.
A total of 630 patients with multiple sclerosis and muscle spasticity received the hemp extract or placebo for 15 weeks. The researchers then performed a number of objective tests to assess muscle spasticity. Patients who received the cannabinoids had fewer symptoms and less muscle spasticity at the end of the clinical trial compared to patients taking the placebo. The greatest benefit appeared after 40 weeks of treatment. Indeed, patients felt that cannabinoids helped manage their condition. Importantly, no major safety concerns were reported.
These clinical trial results suggest long term cannabinoids treatment is safe and may help people with Multiple Sclerosis control symptoms of muscle spasticity.
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Reference: Zajicek et al. (2005). Cannabinoids in multiple sclerosis (CAMS) study: safety and efficacy data for 12 months follow up.Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. 2005 Dec;76(12):1664-9.
The complex interplay between nutrition and health is still
being researched by experts. In many cases, there are already established links
between certain foods and undesirable health outcomes. For example, recent
dietary guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to 10%
of your daily calories or less, as they’re associated with an increased
risk of heart disease. For individuals with chronic diseases, it’s perhaps even
more important to consider the ways food can impact health.
For those with Multiple Sclerosis (MS),
optimizing your diet means not only filling your plate with healthy foods, but
also avoiding or limiting foods known to exacerbate symptoms. Research shows
that in particular, patients with MS have been able to improve their quality of
life by making specific tweaks
to their diet. Discover which foods
you should discuss with your doctor as a means of controlling your symptoms.
Saturated fats are commonly found in animal products,
including red meat. These foods aren’t entirely void of nutritious qualities –
after all, they can be rich sources of protein. Yet, their high concentration
of saturated fats presents issues, as they could raise “bad” cholesterol
levels. This is especially of concern for MS patients, who face a higher risk
for heart problems than people without MS.
Trans fats, too, are considered dangerous. Sometimes labeled
as “partially hydrogenated oils,” these fats are known to increase
inflammation, particularly within the blood vessels. This, too, increases the
risk of cardiovascular issues. Steer clear of packaged cookies, crackers, and dessert
items, or at the very least, be sure to enjoy them sparingly.
We mentioned briefly above that added sugars are notorious
for their adverse health effects. Not only does excess
sugar lead to weight gain, but it also produces an inflammatory effect
which can intensify MS symptoms. Natural sugars, including those found in
fruits, don’t have the same effect, so feel free to snack on those instead.
Added salt presents a number of issues for MS patients. In
general, higher sodium intake is associated with increased
disease activity in MS, and has been found to increase likelihood of
relapse and development of lesions. Sodium intake and blood pressure are also
related, and because high blood pressure can decrease life expectancy in MS
patients, added salt should be consumed at a minimum.
Like meat, cow’s milk and other full-fat dairy products are high
in saturated fats. Besides the fat content, however, specific proteins in the
milk could cause trouble for people with MS. These agents could produce a
reaction in multiple sclerosis sufferers, but research shows
the link isn’t very strong. However, it may be worth replacing cow’s milk and
other full-fat dairy products with alternatives to see if it alleviates your
symptoms. Consider exploring options such as soy, almond, or even camel’s
Gluten is primarily a concern for people with celiac
disease, which is characterized by an allergy to the protein found in rye,
wheat, and barley. Consuming gluten can cause intestinal damage in people with
the allergy. Because MS patients have a higher incidence
of celiac disease than the general population, it may be useful to closely
monitor your body’s reaction to consuming bread, cereal, pasta, and other foods
with gluten. While there is currently no evidence suggesting avoidance of
gluten can alleviate MS symptoms in patients who don’t have celiac disease, it never
hurts to bring up any food-related concerns you may have with your physician.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic condition in which the body’s immune system directs itself against the central nervous system (CNS). Most often, this impacts the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. The symptoms of this condition can vary widely, with some people experience mild effects and others struggling to complete daily tasks.
Frustratingly, many of the symptoms of MS aren’t outwardly visible. These behind-the-scenes challenges are therefore often endured silently, while the patient’s friends and family members may assume that their appearance of health indicates minimal to no suffering. Here are some of the symptoms which, despite their invisibility, can be debilitating; along with practical coping mechanisms to help you maintain your quality of life.
Up to two-thirds of people with MS report pain. For many, it interferes with aspects of daily life, including career, recreation, mood, and their ability to complete activities. The steady discomfort is suspected to result from fatigued muscles, which are working to compensate for those weakened by the disease. Sometimes, chronic pain is reported to feel like a tight band around the chest or torso, known as the “MS hug.” It may also feel like burning, prickling, aching, or “pins and needles.”
Sharp pains, on the other hand, are believed to be from faulty nerve signals caused by the lesions produced by MS in the CNS. The damage to the nerves is called dysesthesia and can impact the legs, feet, arms, and trunk. Up to 55% of people with MS have experienced this “clinically significant pain,” and while it isn’t necessarily dangerous, it can be a source of significant frustration.
For some people, compression stockings or gloves can minimize the pain caused by dysesthesias. For others, pain is more pronounced and requires the use of medications. Doctors may prescribe anticonvulsant medications or antidepressants, which change the ways in which the CNS reacts to pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers, including acetaminophen, and warm compresses can also be used to combat pain under a doctor’s supervision.
In many cases, chronic pain is best addressed through anti-inflammatory drugs, either over-the-counter or prescription. Stretching routines may also aid in maintaining flexibility in the muscles, which could help with pain levels. Massage therapy and physical therapy may also be beneficial. Some seeking an alternative option will consider stem cell therapy due to the potential regenerative ability these stem cells offer for those with MS.
Ultimately, discomfort for MS patients varies in intensity. On days when pain is most severe, changing your routine may provide the greatest relief. Whether it’s declining a social event or using a mobility-assistive device, it’s important to find ways to put your comfort first when experiencing intense pain.
The fatigue MS patients experience goes beyond general tiredness: it is often described as a flu-like feeling of exhaustion or extreme muscle weakness. It occurs in 80% of people with the condition and is therefore among its most common symptoms. Although the condition itself can be the cause, it’s also possibly related conditions, such as sleep disorders, medications, and depression could be culprits behind fatigue.
To determine the best form of treatment for your fatigue, consult with your doctor to pinpoint the reason for your exhaustion. If it’s the condition itself, lifestyle management tactics developed through occupational and physical therapy could make day-to-day tasks more manageable. Scheduling rests and even short naps could help you conserve energy. Also, while it might seem counterintuitive, light physical activity might actually combat energy depletion.
For sleep-related issues, stress management, relaxation training, and sleep regulation techniques may be beneficial. If your fatigue comes on suddenly, occurs regularly, and begins to interfere with responsibilities, consider talking to your doctor about medication options.
Cognitive impairment, including issues with memory, perception, learning, and problem-solving, is reported by nearly 50% of people with MS. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell whether the symptom is tied to the mental fatigue or “brain fog” the condition causes, or whether the mental glitches are actually a result of the impact MS has on the CNS.
While research on the best methods for treating cognitive impairment in MS is still ongoing, there are some tactics you can implement to work around any mental challenges you may experience. Mood management is a good starting point: if you experience inexplicable mental or emotional shifts, you could be suffering from depression. This symptom may be a result of the condition itself, or it could be attributed to medications, in which case you could discuss with your treating physician to see if adjustments to your treatment may be needed.
For some people, brain exercises such as puzzles and memory games help to maintain mental acuity. The brain is a muscle, and working it out regularly is important to facilitating strength. Planning your days in advance is also a good way to minimize any challenges cognitive issues may pose. Schedule important tasks for the times of day when you feel most alert. Finally, don’t hesitate to seek out support from counselors, support groups, or loved ones. Isolation can exacerbate cognitive decline, but socialization can improve or minimize the symptom.