Claims that a British Scientist is About to Cure Multiple Sclerosis

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WHAT IS THE NEWS STORY

More than 2.3 million people globally are affected by the debilitating condition of multiple sclerosis, and symptoms include blindness and muscle weakness. A British scientist could have made one of the most important medical breakthroughs of recent years. Dr Su Metcalfe and her team at LIFNano believe they have found the cure for the devastating condition.

Original Source Article

Claims made in article for substantiation

  1. More than 2.3 million people globally are effected by MS
  2. Symptoms include blindness and muscle weakness
  3. Some people get progressive MS and go straight to the severe form of the disease
  4. The majority of people have a relapsing or remitting version [TRUE]
  5. MS can start from 30 years of age
  6. There is no cure for MS
  7. All that can be done is suppressing the immune response with drugs
  8. The drugs for MS have side effects
  9. The brain cannot be repaired
  10. The cost of MS drugs is very high
  11. A lot of people in the UK do not get treated for MS at all
  12. LIF
    1. LIF controls immune cells to ensure it doesn't attack our bodies, but releases the attack when needed
    2. LIF plays a major role in keeping the brain and spinal cord healthy
    3. LIF plays a major role in tissue repair, burning on naturally-occurring stem cells
    4. LIF plays a big part in repairing the brain when it's been damaged
    5. LIF can only survive for 20 minutes in the body outside the cell
    6. LIF vehicle particles are made from the same material as soluble stitches which are compatible with the body
    7. There are no side effects in using LIF therapy because all it's doing is tipping the balance
      1. Once the immune balance is reinstated therapy is no longer needed, as it becomes self-sustaining

WHY THE STORY IS TRUE

WHY THE STORY HAS MISINFORMATION

Claim 1: More than 2.3 million people globally are effected by MS

The number of people affected by MS globally is widely contested. This is caused by the absence of a registry for new cases. The estimated number of people affected by MS globally as of 30 September 2016 was 2.5 million people. [1]

Claim 2: Symptoms include blindness and muscle weakness

Muscle weakness is indeed prevalent in MS patients with 70% of patients being afflicted.[2] However, "Blindness" was not found to be a common symptom of MS. A common presentation of MS was Optic Neuritis. Nearly 50% of patients with MS had optic neuritis. [3] The affliction was self-limiting and very rarely proceeded to blindness. When blindness did occur, it was restricted to one eye, and was and was temporary. [4]

Claim 3: Some people get progressive MS and go straight to the severe form of the disease

The claim that some people go straight to the severe form of the disease is vague enough to suggest inaccuracy and misinformation. The actual documented progression of the disease follows one of four types:

  1. Remitting Relapsing MS (RRMS): in which patients suffer an episode of the disease followed by complete recovery, to be followed by another episode months later. This is the most common presentation.
  2. Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS): in which patients previously suffering from RRMS start to have symptoms that are progressing with no remittance.
  3. Primary Progressive MS (PPMS): in which patients do not go through a phase of RRMS but start the disease with progressive symptoms. About 15% of patients have this type, and usually in those diagnosed after 40 years of age.
  4. Progressive Relapsing MS (PRMS): this is the least common form of the disease. Patients have symptoms that are progressing, and may show flares that may or may not be followed by recovery.[5]

Claim 5: MS can start from 30 years of age

While the statement that MS can start from 30 years of age can generally be considered as true, the onset of MS could warrant a more detailed account. The age of onset peaks between 20 and 30 years. Almost 70% of patients manifest symptoms between ages 21 and 40. Disease rarely occurs prior to 10 or after 60 years of age. However, patients as young as 3 and as old as 67 years of age have been described. [6]

Claim 6: All that can be done is suppressing the immune response with drugs

While drugs currently posed as treatments for MS all work on the level of the immune system and its contribution to the disease, "suppression" of the immune response is not exactly how they all work. One of the drugs used - Copaxone - differs from all other drugs because it is not an interferon but rather is a synthetic polypeptide composed of sequences of four amino acids that share many antigenic similarities to myelin basic protein and appears to alter the immune response to myelin.[7]

For secondary progressive MS, the most convincing data favors mitoxantrone (Novantrone) as most likely to retard progression and delay disability. Novantrone is a well-established cancer chemotherapeutic drug, primarily effective for lymphomas and leukemias, with broad immune-altering properties.[7]

Some concerns regarding the application of LIF in the clinic still have to be resolved. Phase I studies demonstrated the short half-life of LIF in serum indicating that repetitive injections would be needed.In addition, the limited potential to cross the blood–brain barrier means that high doses need to be administered to reach the target organ, risking systemic side effects. [8]

The article "Brit scientist could be about to CURE multiple sclerosis" originally appeared in Cambridge Business Magazine and in the business section of the Cambridge News and was intended to attract investment.[9]

As is sadly quite common, the headlines make a bold claim that isn't entirely backed up by the article.[9]

The technology has not yet been trialled in humans and won't be until 2020 at the earliest.[9]

A cure for multiple sclerosis: hope or hype?

Early studies in mice by LIFNano Therapeutics, on a protein called “LIF”, leukemia inhibitory factor, have recently been covered in the press as a possible cure for multiple sclerosis. This is very premature and irresponsible as there is insufficient data concerning use of LIF in patients with MS. Further laboratory work on this approach is necessary before it can be tested in people. Clinical trials in people with MS are not scheduled to begin before 2020, according to LIFNano Therapeutics, a company established by British researchers [10] who are seem to be looking for venture capitalists to invest in their business (LIFNano Therapeutics). They do not expect to be able to raise enough cash and obtain the necessary government approvals to begin clinical trials until 2020.[11]

As of 2011, there are 8 FDA approved agents for relapsing forms of MS. No agents are FDA approved for the primary progressive version of MS. FDA approved agents include four preparations of interferon-beta (Avonex, Rebif, Betaseron and Extavia), glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), mitoxantrone (Novantrone), and natalizumab (Tysabri) and the recently approved first oral medication fingolimod (Gilenya). [12]

The unknown etiology, probable disease heterogeneity, and immune system complexity will continue to provide challenges for clinicians treating MS. To date there is no cure for MS, and medications which decrease immunologic functions may have significant risks. The short term efficacy and safety of newer agents is being explored however the long term risks of these agents, particularly when used in combination or succession will remain uncertain. [13]

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REFERENCES

  1. https://www.mstrust.org.uk/a-z/prevalence-and-incidence-multiple-sclerosis
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24236496
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3000766/
  4. http://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/guide/multiple-sclerosis-vision-problems
  5. http://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/guide/how-disease-progresses#1
  6. https://library.med.utah.edu/kw/ms/epidemiology.html#onset
  7. 7.0 7.1 Rolak LA. Multiple Sclerosis: It’s Not The Disease You Thought It Was. Clinical Medicine and Research. 2003;1(1):57-60. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1069023/
  8. http://multiplesclerosis.elsevierresource.com/articles/leukemia-inhibitory-factor-tips-immune-balance-towards-regulatory-t-cells-multiple/fulltext
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 https://www.mstrust.org.uk/news/news-about-ms/talk-a-cure-premature
  10. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/About-the-Society/News/Press-Reports-on-Possible-MS-Cure-Research-on-Pot
  11. https://multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com/2017/06/20/hyping-ms-headlines-is-uncool/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151595/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151595/

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