That's News

By Steve Barrett
Friday, September 1, 2017

Treatment Restores Movement to Mouse Models of MS

By teaching T cells not to attack neurons’ myelin sheath, University of Maryland researchers believe they could be on a path toward improved approaches to diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

An experimental treatment injected into the lymph nodes of paralyzed mouse models of MS restored mobility to the rodents, according to a news release from the American Chemical Society (ACS). The immunotherapeutic agent was made of a polymer infused with both the myelin antigen and an immune-suppressing agent.

“The particles slowly reprogrammed the environment of the lymph node tissues to generate immune cells that migrated to the brain to stop the attack against myelin,” the release states. “These mice regained the ability to walk, and the effects lasted for the duration of the study, which was about 80 days.”

The treatment does not appear to harm normal functioning of the immune system, according to the researchers. The mice still responded vigorously to the introduction of foreign molecules.


Handgrip Test Eases Burden on Parkinson’s Patients

A brief, simple test of muscle strength decline in patients who have Parkinson’s disease (PD) provides data that are as reliable as information gleaned from lengthier, more complicated tests, according to researchers at The University of British Columbia.

Participants performed a handgrip test and tests of gait and balance, in addition to undergoing eight hours of leg- and arm-muscle-activity measurements via wearable monitoring equipment, the researchers explain.

“Grip strength was the best predictor of muscle activity in persons with PD,” the authors note in the study, whose findings were published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

They say the test is easier for both patients and researchers and that the handgrip dynamometer is a routine tool in the armamentariums of family physicians and physiotherapists.

Tracking functional decline in PD patients helps prevent falls, according to the researchers.


Ocrelizumab May Expand Scope of MS Research

The FDA’s approval this year of ocrelizumab — the first drug to treat primary progressive multiple sclerosis — is exciting not only for its benefit to patients who have this severe form of the disease but also for the avenues of investigation it could open, a Harvard University researcher suggests.

Ocrelizumab slows disease progression in patients with either primary progressive MS or relapsing-remitting MS, although the effect is more pronounced among those with the latter.

In a blog post for the university’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Tianli Xiao, a PhD student in the Immunology Program, says approval of the drug is likely to heighten scientists’ focus on developing additional pharmaceuticals for patients with primary progressive MS. In particular, researchers will zero in on the role of cells that “establish a chronic state of immune overactivation” in MS patients, Xiao writes.

Approximately 15 percent of MS patients have the progressive primary form. The rest have relapsing-remitting MS, for which multiple treatments have been developed.