Effective MS Treatment May Depend on Disease Subtype

A study done by University of Michigan scientists suggests that patients suffering from similar clinical signs of multiple sclerosis may, in fact, have different forms of the disease which may require different treatments. Animal studies point out that the different subtypes of MS may likely affect how effective certain treatments are. Further studies, scientists believe will aid doctors in the future in pinpointing specific inflammatory processes in the body and then recommending the appropriate treatments using available drugs as well as the new ones along the line.

Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disease that affects the central nervous system. Cells from the immune system mount an aggressive response against certain proteins in the nervous system, particularly myelin which is considered as the insulation covering the nerve pathways where signals from the brain to other parts of the body go through. A loss of myelin may affect the electrical communication between the brain and the other parts of the body. Symptoms of the disease include, feelings of numbness and tingling, weakness, tremors, imbalance and pain.

Since the 1990’s the treatment of the most common form of the disease, relapsing-remitting MS, has gradually improved. With medications such as beta interferon drugs and glatiramer acetate now available, treatment has proven to be very effective in decreasing the attack rate as well as the suppression of inflammatory plaque development caused by MS. But the effect that some MS treatments greatly help show dramatic improvements in the patient’s condition while not in others still remains an unanswered question.

The University of Michigan research team sought out to conduct studies in mice suffering from a disease called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis or EAE. The team found out that different inflammatory chemicals linked to two different types of immune T cells, could bring about paralysis and other MS-like symptoms. The team also showed that the drugs that may effectively block one of the inflammation pathways would not work as well in blocking the other.

According to Dr. Benjamin Segal, MD, senior author and the director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the U-M Health System, "These two forms of disease differ in the specific anti-inflammatory agents that they are responsive to. We already know that some people respond better to the drugs beta interferon or Copaxone than others. Now we’ve shown proof that you can cause MS-like syndrome in mice due to qualitatively different types of inflammatory damage. As a result, these two kinds of inflammation likely require different approaches to treatment".

It is not known as yet if the differences reflected in the animal studies will be similar to the human model of MS. But the study does suggest of the need to develop drugs that treat different inflammation pathways that may be caused by different forms of the disease.

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