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Multiple sclerosis

Meet the Cambridge scientist on verge of curing Multiple Sclerosis

Dr Su Metcalfe is sitting quietly reading through some documents in the lobby of the Judge Business School when I arrive for our interview. It would be easy to walk right past her and not know you were in the presence of a woman who could be on the verge of curing multiple sclerosis.

MS, an auto-immune condition which affects 2.3 million people around the world, attacks cells in the brain and the spinal cord, causing an array of physical and mental side effects including blindness and muscle weakness. At the moment there’s no cure, but Su and her company, LIFNano, hope to change that.

“Some people get progressive MS, so go straight to the severe form of the disease, but the majority have a relapsing or remitting version,” she says.

“It can start from the age of 30, and there’s no cure, so all you can do is suppress the immune response, but the drugs that do that have side effects, and you can’t repair the brain. The cost of those drugs is very high, and in the UK there are a lot of people who don’t get treated at all.”

But now a solution could be in sight thanks to Su, who has married one of the body’s cleverest functions with some cutting-edge technology. The natural side of the equation is provided by a stem cell particle called a LIF.

Su was working at the university’s department of surgery when she made her big breakthrough: “I was looking to see what controls the immune response and stops it auto-attacking us,” she explains.

Dr Su Metcalfe of LIFNano
Dr Su Metcalfe of LIFNano (Image: David Johnson)

“I discovered a small binary switch, controlled by a LIF, which regulates inside the immune cell itself. LIF is able to control the cell to ensure it doesn’t attack your own body but then releases the attack when needed.

“That LIF, in addition to regulating and protecting us against attack, also plays a major role in keeping the brain and spinal cord healthy. In fact it plays a major role in tissue repair generally, turning on stem cells that are naturally occurring in the body, making it a natural regenerative medicine, but also plays a big part in repairing the brain when it’s been damaged.

“So I thought, this is fantastic. We can treat auto-immune disease, and we’ve got something to treat MS, which attacks both the brain and the spinal cord. So you have a double whammy that can stop and reverse the auto-immunity, and also repair the damage caused in the brain.”

Presumably Su, who has been in Cambridge since she was an undergraduate but retains a soft accent from her native Yorkshire, was dancing a jig of delight around her lab at this point, but she soon hit a snag; the LIF could only survive outside the cell for 20 minutes before being broken down by the body, meaning there was not enough time to deploy it in a therapy. And this is where the technology, in the form of nano-particles, comes in.

“They are made from the same material as soluble stitches, so they’re compatible with the body and they slowly dissolve,” says Su.

“We load the cargo of the LIF into those particles, which become the delivery device that slowly dissolve and deliver the LIF over five days. The nano-particle itself is a protective environment, and the enzymes that break it down can’t access it. You can also decorate the surface of the particles with antibodies, so it becomes a homing device that can target specific parts of the brain, for example. So you get the right dose, in the right place, and at the right time.”

Could LIFNano solve the puzzle of multiple sclerosis?
Could LIFNano solve the puzzle of multiple sclerosis?

The particles themselves were developed at Yale University, which is listed as co-inventor with Su on the IP. But LIFNano has the worldwide licence to deploy them, and Su believes we are on the verge of a step-change in medicine.

She says: “Nano-medicine is a new era, and big pharma has already entered this space to deliver drugs while trying to avoid the side effects. The quantum leap is to actually go into biologics and tap into the natural pathways of the body.

“We’re not using any drugs, we’re simply switching on the body’s own systems of self-tolerance and repair. There aren’t any side effects because all we’re doing is tipping the balance. Auto-immunity happens when that balance has gone awry slightly, and we simply reset that. Once you’ve done that, it becomes self-sustaining and you don’t have to keep giving therapy, because the body has its balance back.”

LIFNano has already attracted two major funding awards, from drug firm Merck and the Government’s Innovate UK agency. Su herself is something of a novice when it comes to business, but has recruited cannily in the form of chairman Florian Kemmerich and ceo Oliver Jarry, both experienced operators in the pharma sector. With the support of the Judge, the company hopes to attract more investment, with the aim of starting clinical trials in 2020.

“The 2020 date is ambitious, but with the funding we’ve got and the funding we’re hoping to raise, it should be possible,” says Su.

“We’ve got everything we need in place to make the nano-particles in a clinically compliant manner, it’s just a case of flicking the switch when we have the money. We’re looking at VCs and big pharma, because they have a strong interest in this area. We’re doing all our pre-clinical work concurrently while bringing in the major funds the company needs to go forward in its own right.”

Immune cells have been a big part of Su’s career, and as we talk, her passion for her subject is obvious. “I wanted to understand something that was so simple on one level but also so complex,” she says.

“The immune cell is the only single cell in the body that is its own unity, so it functions alone. It’s probably one of the most powerful cells in the body because it can kill you, and if you haven’t got it you die because you haven’t got it.”

And MS may just be the start for LIFNano.

“MS is our key driver at the moment, but it’s going to be leading through to other major auto-immune disease areas,” Su adds.

“Psoriasis is high up on our list, and diabetes is another. Downstream there are all the dementias, because a LIF is a major health factor for the brain. So if we can get it into the brain we can start protecting against dementia.”

Now that would be something.

/https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/

Categories
Multiple sclerosis

16 Early Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive, immune-mediated disorder. That means the system designed to keep your body healthy mistakenly attacks parts of your body that are vital to everyday function. The protective coverings of nerve cells are damaged, which leads to diminished function in the brain and spinal cord.

MS is a disease with unpredictable symptoms that can vary in intensity. While some people experience fatigue and numbness, severe cases of MS can cause paralysis, vision loss, and diminished brain function.

Common early signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) include:

  • vision problems
  • tingling and numbness
  • pains and spasms
  • weakness or fatigue
  • balance problems or dizziness
  • bladder issues
  • sexual dysfunction
  • cognitive problems

1. Vision problems

Visual problems are one of the most common symptoms of MS. Inflammation affects the optic nerve and disrupts central vision. This can cause blurred vision, double vision, or loss of vision.

You may not notice the vision problems immediately, as degeneration of clear vision can be slow. Pain when you look up or to one side also can accompany vision loss. There are variety of ways to cope with MS-related vision changes.

2. Tingling and numbness

MS affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord (the body’s message center). This means it can send conflicting signals around the body. Sometimes, no signals are sent. This results in numbness.

Tingling sensations and numbness are one of the most common warning signs of MS. Common sites of numbness include the face, arms, legs, and fingers.

3. Pain and spasms

Chronic pain and involuntary muscle spasmsare also common with MS. One study, according to the National MS Society, showed that half of people with MS had chronic pain.

Muscle stiffness or spasms (spasticity) are also common. You might experience stiff muscles or joints as well as uncontrollable, painful jerking movements of the extremities. The legs are most often affected, but back pain is also common.

4. Fatigue and weakness

Unexplained fatigue and weaknessaffect about 80 percent of people in the early stages of MS.

Chronic fatigue occurs when nerves deteriorate in the spinal column. Usually, the fatigue appears suddenly and lasts for weeks before improving. The weakness is most noticeable in the legs at first.

5. Balance problems and dizziness

Dizziness and problems with coordination and balance can decrease the mobility of someone with MS. Your doctor may refer to these as problems with your gait. People with MS often feel lightheaded, dizzy, or as if their surroundings are spinning (vertigo). This symptom often occurs when you stand up.

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Multiple sclerosis

9 Tips for Beating MS Fatigue

Common fatigue

Almost everyone who has multiple sclerosis (MS) also has fatigue. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), around 80 percent of those diagnosed with the condition will experience fatigue at some point during the course of the disease. However, the exact cause of MS-related fatigue remains unknown.

Read on for nine tips that can help you increase your energy and reduce your fatigue.

A different kind of tired

Before learning how to beat fatigue, it’s useful to understand the types of fatigue you may face when you have MS. Researchers have started to identify a number of distinct characteristics associated specifically with MS that make it quite different from garden-variety tiredness, such as:

  • Onset: It can begin suddenly.
  • Frequency: It often occurs every day.
  • Time of day: It can occur in the morning, despite your having slept the night before.
  • Progression: It commonly worsens throughout the day.
  • Sensitivity to heat: Heat and humidity may aggravate it.
  • Severity: It tends to be more severe than other types of fatigue.
  • Effect on activities: It’s more likely than regular fatigue to disrupt your ability to perform everyday tasks.

Tip 1: Exercise often

According to the Cleveland Clinic, regular physical activity can help fight fatigue related to MS. Sticking with a consistent exercise program can help with endurance, balance, weight loss, and general well-being — all important for people living with MS.

However, there is one caveat: while exercise helps some people with MS, there are others with the condition who won’t have the same benefit. If in doubt, talk to your doctor before starting any kind of new fitness program, and remember that the goal of exercise is to give you more energy, not make you feel more tired.

Tip 2: Conserve energy

Energy conservation isn’t just important for the environment, it’s also a key principle for those with MS.

What’s your best time of day to get things done (i.e., the time when you feel the most energetic)? If you notice that you feel less fatigue in the morning, take advantage of your extra energy to take care of tasks like shopping and cleaning. Then you can conserve your energy later when you feel more fatigued, knowing you’ve already accomplished key tasks for the day.

Tip 3: Stay cool

MS patients may be especially sensitive to heat. As a result, they may experience more fatigue when they’re in a warmer environment or become overheated. Try these techniques to cool down:

  • Use air conditioning as needed, especially in the summer months.
  • Wear a cooling vest.
  • Take a cool shower.
  • Jump in a swimming pool.
  • Drink icy beverages.
  • Wear lightweight clothes.

Tip 4: Try therapy

If your own lifestyle changes don’t give you the energy boost you need, you may want to try occupational or physical therapy.

With occupational therapy, a trained specialist helps you simplify activities in your work or home environments. This may involve using adaptive equipment or changing your environment to help increase your physical and mental energy.

With physical therapy, a trained professional helps you perform daily physical tasks more effectively. For instance, you may use techniques or devices that can help you to conserve energy while walking.

Tip 5: Regulate your sleep

Sleep problems are often behind the fatigue that people with MS experience. Whether you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting the amount and type of sleep you need to awaken feeling refreshed, the result is the same: you’ll feel tired.

To help prevent these problems, it’s important to regulate your sleep. This might involve identifying and treating other symptoms of MS that cause sleep problems — for example, urinary dysfunction. If all else fails, you might talk with your doctor about using sleep medications for a short period of time.

Tip 6: Avoid problem behaviors

Certain behaviors may seem to help with fatigue, but in the end may cause more problems than they solve. While drinking a hot beverage may sound like a good way to wind down if you’re having trouble sleeping, be sure to check if your drink contains caffeine. Coffee and tea typically contain caffeine, which can prevent you from falling asleep, leading to fatigue the next day.

Similarly, while alcohol may help you feel sleepy after you first drink it, it can later make it harder to get a restful night’s sleep. Review your behaviors that may be contributing to poor sleep habits and fatigue, and take steps to avoid them.

Tip 7: Eat right

Poor nutrition can make anyone feel tired or fatigued, and the same may be even more true for people with MS. StudiesTrusted Source show that your diet can affect your symptoms and how you feel, and may even impact the progression of your disease.

Good nutrition advice for most people includes eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. This advice holds true for you, too. And some tips, such as making sure you consume enough healthy fats and vitamin D, may be especially important if you have MS.

If you have questions about how you should be eating, talk to your doctor. They can help advise you, or refer you to a nutritionist who can help create a healthy eating plan just for you.

Tip 8: Keep stress in check

Just like a poor diet may affect a person with MS more than someone without it, stress could have a bigger impact on you than on your friend without MS.

Among other effects, anyone with stress can experience insomnia, which can lead to fatigue. But for people with MS, stress can actually worsen your condition. Research has shown that stress could cause increased MS lesions in the brain. And advanced disease can increase your symptoms, including fatigue.

Eating well, exercising, and even listening to music can help reduce stress. Meditation is also a proven way to help you relax and ease stress. For more ideas, talk to your doctor. But don’t stress about it — stress is a part of everyday life, so your goal should be to simply keep it under control, not get rid of it entirely.

Tip 9: Manage your medications

If you’re taking medications for other symptoms, check their side effects to make sure they aren’t adding to your fatigue. Talk to your doctor about each medication you take, and work together to determine whether you can stop taking those that can cause fatigue.

In terms of medication to help ease fatigue, your doctor can help you decide what’s right for you. While some medications including aspirin can help with fatigue management, the Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding using medications to treat tiredness. This is because as an MS patient, you may already be taking other medications, and it’s best to limit the number of drugs you take when possible.

However, everyone’s MS symptoms are different, and if you try the tips in this article and nothing works to manage your fatigue, there are medication options to help reduce fatigue. Amantadine and modafinil are two off-label drugs that may help. That said, they’re still being studied as treatment for MS fatigue, and may not be covered by your insurance for this purpose. For more information about these drugs, talk to your doctor.

Awakening to the problem

Fatigue from MS can wreak havoc on your life for many reasons, both at work and home. It may severely limit the types of activities you can do, and may even result in you having to leave your job. So, it’s worth it to learn how to manage the fatigue caused by MS.

If you have questions or concerns about your fatigue or level of energy, talk to your doctor for guidance. They’ll work with you to find ways to address your fatigue and help you have more energy in your daily life.

source: https://www.healthline.com/

Categories
Multiple sclerosis

11 Celebrities with Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that impacts the brain and spinal cord. These are the main components of the central nervous system. The central nervous system controls nearly everything we do, from walking to doing a complex math problem.

MS can manifest in many different types of complications. It affects the coverings of nerve endings within the central nervous system. This can result in diminished vision, motor function, tingling, and pain in the extremities.

MS can be a challenging condition, but many people with the disease lead healthy and active lives. Here’s what some celebrities have to say about living with MS.  

1. Joan Didion

Joan Didion

Joan Didion is an award-winning American author and screenwriter. Known for her vivid descriptions, biting irony, and candor, Didion wrote about her diagnosis in “The White Album.” The essay is from her nonfiction collection “Slouching Toward Bethlehem.” She wrote, “I had … a sharp apprehension of what it was like to open the door to the stranger and find that the stranger did indeed have the knife.”

Didion’s work was a channel for the uncertainties she felt while adjusting to her condition. At 82, Didion is still writing. In 2013, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts and Humanities.

2. Rachel Miner

Rachel Miner

Rachel Miner is an American actress who is best known for her portrayal of Meg Masters in The CW Network series “Supernatural.”

Miner spoke out about her diagnosis at the Dallas Comic Convention in 2013. She continues to manage her symptoms, but in 2009 had to leave the show due to the physical complications of MS. “The physical constraints were at the point that I feared I couldn’t do Meg or the writing justice,” she told a fan blog.

Although she maintains she didn’t officially leave the show because of the disease, she also asserts the importance of knowing your limits and listening to your body.

3. Jack Osbourne

Jack Osbourne

Jack Osbourne, son of British rock star Ozzy Osbourne, was introduced to American audiences in the early 2000s as a teenager on the MTV reality show about his family. He publicly announced he has multiple sclerosis in 2012.

Since his diagnosis, Osbourne’s motto is “Adapt and Overcome.” He uses the hashtag #Jackshaft on Twitter to talk about his experience with MS. “I will never say that I am thankful for MS,” he said in an open letter. “But I will say that without MS, I don’t know if I would have made the necessary changes in my life that have changed me for the better.”

4. Clay Walker

Clay Walker

At age 26, country music star Clay Walker received a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis after experiencing tingling and twitching in his face and extremities. Walker says he struggled after he was first diagnosed: “I realized that I needed to stop dwelling on being diagnosed with a chronic disease, and instead focus on finding a groove.”

He spent some time working with his neurologist. And with the help of his family, he’s settled into a routine that enables him to better manage his symptoms.

Activism is one important component of Walker’s routine. He started Band Against MS, an organization to help educate others with MS.

5. Ann Romney

Ann Romney

Ann Romney is the wife of politician Mitt Romney. In her book “In This Together: My Story,” she shared that her life changed in 1997 when she was diagnosed with MS. Since then, she works hard not to let her condition define her.

“Finding joy in your life is another really important component,” she said in an interview with PBS. “And losing yourself in doing something else, and not always dwelling on your illness is very important.”

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Multiple sclerosis

5 Ways Hope Can Suck When You Have MS

After a particularly dismissive appointment with my interim, now former, neurologist, where all I was sent away with was a you’re worse, there’s nothing we can do, see you in a year treatment plan, I found myself feeling like so many others with Secondary Progressive MS: sidelined, abandoned, hopeless.

I left the MS clinic that day with a desperate vibe, believing that even though nobody will look me in the eye and say it out loud, it’s only a matter of time before I can no longer use my legs at all, and why the fuck isn’t everyone (or anyone, for that matter), freaking out about it?

If my appointment hadn’t felt so rushed (aside from the 90 minutes I spent in the waiting room); if the clinic weren’t so under-resourced that it’s near impossible to be seen outside of annual visits; if the doctor had taken my symptoms seriously (as opposed to chalking them up to anxiety); and if his office hadn’t been such a fucking garbage fire, maybe I wouldn’t have felt like I needed a second opinion. Not to mention a new doctor.

Would you trust this hoarder with the health of your brain?

So I went to the Tisch Centre in New York, where some exciting, hopeful research is being done in the field of MS, to seek that second opinion. I kept my expectations low. At the very least I’d hear confirmation that there really isn’t anything that can be done.

When the NYC neuro recommended I try one of the drugs recently approved for progressive MS, I left his office with a hope I hadn’t felt in four years. I was excited. I felt light. I caught myself smiling at strangers instead of scowling at babies. Don’t get me wrong; I know this disease well enough not to hope for a cure or even substantial recovery. But the sliver of hope I was granted that day was intoxicating.

Well, fuck hope.

I took my fancy, big-city recommendation back to Canada – not to Dr. Paperwork; I’m done there. I took my recommendation back to a neurologist I hadn’t seen in three years; the doctor who initially diagnosed me and treated me for more than a decade – R-Dogg. I have to travel out of town to see him; The Banker must take time off work to get my non-driving ass there (the reason I’d left in the first place), but I knew I’d be getting better care than what my current clinic is able to provide.

R-Dogg and his staff welcomed me back to their practice where the office hasn’t changed. It felt weird to be there, but good. Safe. I trust this man. I trust his whole team. But you already know what happens next; or else, why would I be writing this.

R-Dogg has been giving me the shittiest news of my life since 2001. Why should this day be any different?

I have SPMS, but I don’t have active SPMS. I don’t have new or enhancing lesions. No enhancing lesions means no treatment. Even if I feel like MS is actively trying to ruin me 24 hours a day, no MRI activity makes my lazy, insidious disease quantifiably less susceptible – some would say completely insusceptible – to therapies, therapies that carry risks. I knew all these depressing af facts going in, but my shiny, hope-shilling, freedom-loving American doctor has his reasons for believing more treatment is worth a shot, and that was good enough for me.

But it wasn’t good enough for my maple-glazed, gunless, cautious Canadian doctor who told me to trust the science. Not my emotions.

R-Dogg doesn’t write prescriptions for hope.

I sucked the tears back into my eyes as I left my new/old neurologist’s office feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach. I can’t be mad at him for taking away my hope. I never should have hitched my wagon to hope in the first place.

I mean, why do we have such a good opinion of hope anyway? How is hope an actual virtue when hope is literally the desire for something and the expectation of receiving it. In what world is hope not a douchebag? Hope sounds like a toddler melting down because you won’t let her feed hamburger buns to the cat.

Not convinced? Allow me to break down the dark side of hope:

 

1. Hope can be a downer

Hope can set us up for incredibly cruel disappointment. Not I’m bummed because everyone’s wearing pink now, and that was my thing kind of disappointment. When hope is repeatedly dashed, hope can turn into hopelessness, even despair.

Hoping against hope that my MS simply goes away sets up a cycle of grief when, year after year, it laughs at my restraining order, and continues to get worse.

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