What recent advances have been made in multiple sclerosis (MS) research?

Norman Doidge, MD
Some recent advances that have been made in MS research take into account how diet can impact the disease, and how new devices that utilize electrical signals lessen symptoms. In this video, psychiatrist Norman Doidge, MD, describes these options.
Saud A. Sadiq, MD
Promising advances in MS treatment include new drugs that can control MS symptoms and stop progression, and clinical stem cell trials that could prove to reverse disability in some patients. Watch me as I discuss these advances.

Many advances, on several fronts, have been made in the war against multiple sclerosis (MS). Each advance interacts with the others, adding greater depth and meaning to each new discovery. Four areas, in particular, stand out.

Over the last decade, our knowledge about how the immune system works has grown at an amazing rate. Major gains have been made in recognizing and defining the role of this system in the development of MS lesions, giving scientists the ability to devise ways to alter the immune response. Such work is expected to yield a variety of new potential therapies that may ameliorate MS without harmful side effects.

New tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have redefined the natural history of MS and are proving invaluable in monitoring disease activity. Scientists are now able to visualize and follow the development of MS lesions in the brain and spinal cord using MRI; this ability is a tremendous aid in the assessment of new therapies and can speed up the process of evaluating new treatments.

Other tools have been developed that make the painstaking work of teasing out the disease's genetic secrets possible. Such studies have strengthened scientists' conviction that MS is a disease with many genetic components, none of which is dominant. Immune system?related genetic factors that predispose an individual to the development of MS have been identified and may lead to new ways to treat or prevent the disease.

In fact, a treatment that may actually slow the course of the disease has been found, and a growing number of therapies are now available that effectively treat some MS symptoms. In addition, there are a number of treatments under investigation that may curtail attacks or improve function of demyelinated nerve fibers. Over a dozen clinical trials testing potential therapies are underway, and additional new treatments are being devised and tested in animal models.

This answer is based on source information from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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