Potential new treatment for people with MS: what is the truth behind the headlines?

January 14, 2021 | Southmedia

There is potentially a new treatment for people with MS but what is the truth behind the headlines?


We have all welcomed the news of a Covid vaccine (well, most people anyway!). This last week you may have seen some headlines about how the science could use some of the science behind some of the vaccines to treat people with MS. But what is the truth behind the headlines?

The information below is taken from the MS Society website and the links will allow you to read all the MS Society and the MS Trust information on it. 

Note from BMSTC: Whilst all potential treatments bring hope, it is essential to stress the word potential. Sadly there are no guarantees and if successful, how long it would take. 

Read the full article here:
Read the MS Trust article here:
‘New research suggests MS could be treated using mRNA, which has also been used to create two of the COVID-19 vaccines. We take a look behind the headlines to see what this could mean for people living with MS. We don’t yet know exactly what causes MS, so we don’t know how to prevent it. There’s currently no vaccine that can stop someone from developing MS, although there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing the condition (like not smoking).  However, the science behind two of the COVID-19 vaccines may have potential as a way of treating MS.  

What was being tested? 

Most of us would usually think of a vaccine as something that stops you from getting ill. Normally, vaccines teach our immune systems to fight an invading molecule like a virus. But the new mRNA treatment tested in this study, which was published in the journal Science, is different.  

Unlike normal vaccines, this vaccine is not intended to prevent people from developing MS in the first place. Instead, it’s being tested as a potential treatment for people who already have MS.  

In MS, the immune system attacks the protective myelin coating around our nerves. In this study, researchers wanted to know whether a type of mRNA containing the code for part of myelin can be used to teach the immune system to not attack myelin. 

What does this mean for people with MS? 

In the last 25 years we’ve made huge progress in developing treatments to reduce the immune attacks associated with MS. However, the treatments that are currently available for MS target the immune system as a whole and not just the cells that damage myelin. This means there are side effects.  This is still very early-stage research and has only been tested in mice so far. Although this study has shown promising results, we don’t yet know whether this treatment would work in people with MS. We’d also still need to find ways to repair myelin that has already been damaged, and protect nerves from further degeneration. 

Dr Emma Gray, our Assistant Director of Research, said: “There are over 130,000 people living with MS in the UK, and many don’t have access to effective treatments. This research highlights an interesting new approach and it’s great to see interest in applying this new mRNA technology to treating MS. “However, it is still in the very early stages and has only been tested in animals. We’d be excited to see more research to understand if and how this could benefit people with MS.”’

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