Three steps to stop MS
MS researchers are working on three ways to stop MS. We believe if we achieve these goals, we can stop MS.
- Prevent immune damage
- Promote myelin repair
- Protect nerves from damage
There are now over a dozen licensed treatments for people with relapsing forms of MS, and some emerging for early active progressive MS. But there are still lots of people without treatment.
To help people at every stage of MS, we need to stop MS from progressing. Researchers are looking at three ways to do this.
What goes wrong in MS?
In MS, immune cells attack the protective myelin coating around our nerve cells. Myelin plays a vital role in how nerves work and also protects them from damage.
When myelin becomes damaged, messages find it harder to get through – or can’t get through at all. That’s what causes the symptoms of MS.
Without their protective myelin, nerve cells are also more vulnerable. And once a nerve cell is lost it can’t be replaced. This is what causes progression.
Our plan to stop MS
Researchers are working on three ways to tackle MS.
To stop MS early we need to stop our immune system damaging myelin.
There has been incredible progress in this area of research, and we now have over 12 available disease modifying therapies (DMTs) for relapsing MS that help do this. Researchers are also testing the benefits of stem cell transplantation (HSCT), which aims to stop the immune system attacking myelin.
We’re starting to see progress in immune system research for progressive MS as well. This year ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) became the first drug licensed in the UK to slow progression in primary progressive MS. And this year siponimod (Mayzent) became the first oral treatment licensed for peole with active secondary progressive MS. But these drugs can't help if permanent damage has already been done.
Our bodies have an amazing natural ability to repair myelin. But this repair becomes less effective over time and doesn’t work as well as it should in MS.
Researchers are focused on understanding why the repair process breaks down and finding ways kick-start this natural process again.
We’re funding world-leading research into myelin repair for MS, including our world-class research centres in Cambridge and Edinburgh. Every discovery brings new opportunities to develop myelin repair treatments – and these could be effective for everyone with MS.
Our recent bexarotene trial showed myelin repair in humans is possible. And we’re also supporting a new trial testing whether the diabetes drug metformin can repair myelin in people with relapsing MS.
We need to make sure that our nerves are happy, healthy and protected from damage. And this is even more important when myelin isn’t around.
Researchers are using their knowledge of nerves to design new ways to keep them alive and healthy. These include clearing up debris left over from myelin attacks, making sure nerves have the energy they need, and improving transport of important molecules in the nerves.
By finding treatments that prevent nerve loss, we could slow or stop the progression of MS. We’re excited because clinical trials of potential treatments are already underway. This includes the MS-STAT2 trial which is testing if simvastatin can slow progression in secondary progressive MS.
Research has led to major advances in our understanding of MS. This means treatments that slow or stop disability for everyone with MS are now a very real prospect.