The latest innovations keep MS in check
Thirty years: That’s how long Laurel had been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) before she was officially diagnosed. Despite constantly feeling fatigued, Laurel had been living a more-or-less-normal life for a while, even after her diagnosis. But like most people with MS, Laurel was scared for her future. “I did not know what my future was gonna be. I didn’t know if I was gonna end up in a wheelchair.” Although the disease runs in her family, MS symptoms are variable and unpredictable. No two people have exactly the same symptoms, and each person’s symptoms can change or fluctuate over time. Faced with an uncertain future, Laurel has decided not to give up, to fight MS to the best of her ability and seek out the best doctors available. And whenever she feels discouraged, she volunteers because connecting with people and giving back gives her the strength to keep fighting.
RESEARCHERS MAKING AN IMPACT
When it comes to understanding, preventing and treating chronic diseases, MS ranks as one of the most difficult. No one knows this better than Ian—MS researcher and Head of Discovery for Global Research & Development at a biopharmaceutical company—where he leads a team focused on developing and testing new medicines for neurological diseases. With a background in pharmacology (the study of a drug’s actions and effects on the body), Ian has spent his career researching diseases of the brain. “Although we’ve been working on diseases like MS for a long time, the progress we’ve made has been modest.” Still, he confesses, a lot has been learned along the way. With each study, researchers learn something new, which in turn pushes the science and team forward. “There’s a bunch of people who feel the same way that I do,” Ian adds. “They’re passionate about what they do. There’s a drive to understand, a drive to make a difference, and when you put all of that together, it’s a really remarkable phenomenon.” Although the work is often tiresome, frustrating and filled with setbacks, Ian is more determined than ever to find tomorrow’s breakthrough cure, today. “When I meet MS patients and I hear their stories” he says, “there’s this urge to get back in the lab and do whatever we’re doing faster, better, sooner.”
These diseases aren’t letting up anytime soon, and neither are we.
- Ian, MS researcher
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THE LATEST INNOVATIONS
MS is a rare disease where the immune system eats away at the coating that protects the nerves. It affects roughly 200,000 people each year, most often between the ages of 20 and 50. Every day, though, researchers make progress. One decade ago, treatments were limited to a handful of injected and infused medicines that resulted in painful site reactions and challenging side effects for some patients. Flash forward to today and patients have greater and more convenient treatment options with fewer side effects. These include several oral treatment regimens to help reduce relapses, prevent disease progression and improve overall quality of life.
The most common disease course in MS is called relapsing-remitting MS — when acute exacerbations (relapses) are followed by remissions as the inflammatory process gradually comes to an end. Not all exacerbations require treatment. Mild sensory changes that don’t significantly impact a person’s activities, like numbness or pins-and-needles sensations, can generally be left alone. For severe exacerbations in which there’s a loss of vision, severe weakness or poor balance, there are therapies that help reduce the inflammation and bring the relapse to an end more quickly. Although MS has stumped researchers in the past, these medicines are proof that great progress is being made every day. And with even more MS medicines currently being developed, the future has never looked more promising.
TOGETHER, WE WILL CRUSH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
MS is a relentless disease. But so are the hundreds of researchers who fight every day to end the war on this nasty disease. Their work today will help us change the face of medicine tomorrow. It’s just another testament to the hundreds of researchers like Ian. What they do every day leaves a small but enduring mark on patients everywhere.