Recent research from Swiss drug maker Roche shows drastic improvements in the way we treat patients for multiple sclerosis, but doctors still haven't found a cure - here's why.
We recently reported that Swiss drug maker Roche had released the results for clinical trials surrounding its new treatment for multiple sclerosis, ocrelizumab. Despite the drug’s ability to reduce the symptoms related to progressive and relapsing multiple sclerosis, and harmful side effects only appearing ten percent of the time, the drug still doesn’t attack the root cause of the disease. The treatments are getting better, but for now, there still seems to be no cure.
Currently, there are more than 2.3 million people on the planet that suffer from multiple sclerosis. According to a report from Consumer Affairs, the disease affects the nervous system by damaging the protective myelin sheaths at the end of synapses. Disrupting the communication between the brain and other parts of the body, multiple sclerosis generally affects young adults.
The best doctors can do at this point for multiple sclerosis patients is to manage their symptoms. New medications can help slow down the disease’s advance on the brain, but so far there is no way to repair the damage that has already been done.
The best shot doctors have at a cure is reversing this damage to the brain and nervous system. If researchers could find out a way to accomplish this goal, they would have found the holy grail of multiple sclerosis treatment.
The body’s own immune system is responsible for most of the damage cause by multiple sclerosis. Antibodies begin to attack myelin, the substance that forms the protective casing around neurons in the body. Nerves become damaged after the loss of their protective casing, causing difficulty in transmitting messages between the brain and the spinal cord.
Pharmaceutical companies have been developing treatments for MS for years now, and one of the most effective treatments available is a new drug called anti-LINGO-1, or BIIB033. This medication has been shown to have no negative side effects and could even reverse the degradation of myelin in the nervous system. LINGO-1 is a protein in the central nervous system that prevents the formation of myelin.
Anti-LINGO-1 medications aren’t the only tool doctors have t their disposal. A different compound, called IRX4204 could help inhibit the immune system’s response to MS and promote the repair of myelin. Other researchers have looked to stem cells to treat the progression of MS.
A recent study from Harvard doctors examined the effect of salt and gut bacteria in the progression of MS, and doctors in France are looking into the possibility of using an adult’s own stem cells to build myelin back up.
Despite millions of investment in research, a cure for multiple sclerosis remains elusive. The new drug ocrelizumab from Roche shows serious promise, but there still hasn’t been a person to figure out how to restore myelin in the nervous system.