Some MS patients experience 'natural' improvements in disability

October 18, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients sometimes experience "natural" improvements in disability at least over the short term, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

The study, published this month in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, is the first to quantify improvements in disability in patients who are not taking immunomodulatory drugs such as drugs or glatiramer acetate.

"Many people assume that experience only and an increasing disability," says Helen Tremlett, the study's lead author, an associate professor in the UBC Faculty of Medicine. "While we did observe that no change or a worsening in disability was most common, up to 30 per cent of patients did experience an improvement, and this was often sustained over one to two years."

While there were some patient characteristics more associated with a greater chance of improvement – including being female, younger, and having the relapse-remitting form of the disease – a wide spectrum of patients experienced episodes of improvement.

"To date, no disease modifying drugs for MS that have gained licensed approval for specifically improving or reducing disability in MS," adds Prof. Tremlett, who is also a member of the Brain Research Centre at UBC and VCH Research Institute. "However, we know that these drugs can be very helpful in reducing , so our research provides additional important context for interpreting the findings of clinical trials."

Further research is needed to understand the underlying these improvements in order to pinpoint possible , and to determine the potential capacity for to enhance and prolong this natural, innate improvement for the benefit of patients.

Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. MS can cause a , impaired speech, , and vision problems, among other symptoms. There are four types of disease progression in MS, which can be characterized as relapsing remitting, primary progressive, secondary progressive, or progressive relapsing.

Anonymized clinical data of 2961 patients with MS residing in British Columbia who visited a B.C. MS clinic between 1980 and 2004 were accessed. Disability in MS patients is measured by the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) in eight functional systems, including sensory, visual, and cerebellar systems. Consecutive immunomodulatory drug-free EDSS scores one and two years apart were examined. EDSS scores were assessed and recorded after a face-to-face consultation with an MS specialist neurologist. EDSS scores were excluded once an immunomodulatory, immunosuppressant, or MS clinical trial drug was started, or if the score was recorded within one month post-relapse ('attack').

In this study, published first online in June, improvements in disability were measured on the EDSS scale and classified in three ways: any improvement greater than or equal to 0.5 points; an improvement greater than or equal to 1 point; and an improvement greater than or equal to 2 points.

Explore further: Widely prescribed multiple sclerosis treatment with interferon beta may not slow progression of disease: study

Related Stories

Widely prescribed multiple sclerosis treatment with interferon beta may not slow progression of disease: study

July 17, 2012
Researchers with the UBC Hospital MS Clinic and Brain Research Centre at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia have published important data in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) ...

Pregnancy in women with two types of MS may mitigate MS progression

May 4, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Pregnancy appears to have a positive effect on long-term disability in women with two types of multiple sclerosis, indicating that reproductive hormones may play a protective role in MS progression, neurology ...

Lifestyle study highlights key differences in relapsing and progressive onset MS

March 19, 2012
Patients with relapsing onset Multiple Sclerosis (MS) who consumed alcohol, wine, coffee and fish on a regular basis took four to seven years longer to reach the point where they needed a walking aid than people who never ...

Multiple sclerosis patients have lower risk of cancer: research

June 21, 2012
Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients appear to have a lower cancer risk, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health.

Recommended for you

Neurons involved in learning, memory preservation less stable, more flexible than once thought

August 17, 2017
The human brain has a region of cells responsible for linking sensory cues to actions and behaviors and cataloging the link as a memory. Cells that form these links have been deemed highly stable and fixed.

Researchers make surprising discovery about how neurons talk to each other

August 17, 2017
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have uncovered the mechanism by which neurons keep up with the demands of repeatedly sending signals to other neurons. The new findings, made in fruit flies and mice, challenge ...

Researchers show how particular fear memories can be erased

August 17, 2017
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have devised a method to selectively erase particular fear memories by weakening the connections between the nerve cells (neurons) involved in forming these memories.

How we recall the past: Neuroscientists discover a brain circuit dedicated to retrieving memories

August 17, 2017
When we have a new experience, the memory of that event is stored in a neural circuit that connects several parts of the hippocampus and other brain structures. Each cluster of neurons may store different aspects of the memory, ...

Study uncovers specialized mouse neurons that play a unique role in pain

August 17, 2017
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health have identified a class of sensory neurons (nerve cells that electrically send and receive messages between the body and brain) that can be activated by stimuli as precise ...

Scientists discover powerful potential pain reliever

August 16, 2017
A team of scientists led by chemists Stephen Martin and James Sahn at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered what they say is a powerful pain reliever that acts on a previously unknown pain pathway. The synthetic ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.