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Concept: Multiple sclerosis


Background An evolving understanding of the immunopathogenesis of multiple sclerosis suggests that depleting B cells could be useful for treatment. We studied ocrelizumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody that selectively depletes CD20-expressing B cells, in the primary progressive form of the disease. Methods In this phase 3 trial, we randomly assigned 732 patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis in a 2:1 ratio to receive intravenous ocrelizumab (600 mg) or placebo every 24 weeks for at least 120 weeks and until a prespecified number of confirmed disability progression events had occurred. The primary end point was the percentage of patients with disability progression confirmed at 12 weeks in a time-to-event analysis. Results The percentage of patients with 12-week confirmed disability progression was 32.9% with ocrelizumab versus 39.3% with placebo (hazard ratio, 0.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.59 to 0.98; P=0.03). The percentage of patients with 24-week confirmed disability progression was 29.6% with ocrelizumab versus 35.7% with placebo (hazard ratio, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.58 to 0.98; P=0.04). By week 120, performance on the timed 25-foot walk worsened by 38.9% with ocrelizumab versus 55.1% with placebo (P=0.04); the total volume of brain lesions on T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) decreased by 3.4% with ocrelizumab and increased by 7.4% with placebo (P<0.001); and the percentage of brain-volume loss was 0.90% with ocrelizumab versus 1.09% with placebo (P=0.02). There was no significant difference in the change in the Physical Component Summary score of the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey. Infusion-related reactions, upper respiratory tract infections, and oral herpes infections were more frequent with ocrelizumab than with placebo. Neoplasms occurred in 2.3% of patients who received ocrelizumab and in 0.8% of patients who received placebo; there was no clinically significant difference between groups in the rates of serious adverse events and serious infections. Conclusions Among patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, ocrelizumab was associated with lower rates of clinical and MRI progression than placebo. Extended observation is required to determine the long-term safety and efficacy of ocrelizumab. (Funded by F. Hoffmann-La Roche; ORATORIO number, NCT01194570 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Monoclonal antibodies, Magnetic resonance imaging, Multiple sclerosis, Respiratory system, Upper respiratory tract, Upper respiratory tract infection, Hoffmann–La Roche


Progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) is a severely disabling neurological condition, and an effective treatment is urgently needed. Recently, high-dose biotin has emerged as a promising therapy for affected individuals. Initial clinical data have shown that daily doses of biotin of up to 300 mg can improve objective measures of MS-related disability. In this article, we review the biology of biotin and explore the properties of this ubiquitous coenzyme that may explain the encouraging responses seen in patients with progressive MS. The gradual worsening of neurological disability in patients with progressive MS is caused by progressive axonal loss or damage. The triggers for axonal loss in MS likely include both inflammatory demyelination of the myelin sheath and primary neurodegeneration caused by a state of virtual hypoxia within the neuron. Accordingly, targeting both these pathological processes could be effective in the treatment of progressive MS. Biotin is an essential co-factor for five carboxylases involved in fatty acid synthesis and energy production. We hypothesize that high-dose biotin is exerting a therapeutic effect in patients with progressive MS through two different and complementary mechanisms: by promoting axonal remyelination by enhancing myelin production and by reducing axonal hypoxia through enhanced energy production.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Action potential, Multiple sclerosis, Neurology, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte


Observational studies have demonstrated an association between decreased vitamin D level and risk of multiple sclerosis (MS); however, it remains unclear whether this relationship is causal. We undertook a Mendelian randomization (MR) study to evaluate whether genetically lowered vitamin D level influences the risk of MS.

Concepts: Vitamin D, Genetics, Observational study, Multiple sclerosis, Vitamins


To characterize effects of alemtuzumab treatment on measures of disability improvement in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) with inadequate response (≥1 relapse) to prior therapy.

Concepts: Better, Improve, Multiple sclerosis


Current methods for studying central nervous system myelination necessitate permissive axonal substrates conducive to myelin wrapping by oligodendrocytes. We have developed a neuron-free culture system in which electron-spun nanofibers of varying sizes substitute for axons as a substrate for oligodendrocyte myelination, thereby allowing manipulation of the biophysical elements of axonal-oligodendroglial interactions. To investigate axonal regulation of myelination, this system effectively uncouples the role of molecular (inductive) cues from that of biophysical properties of the axon. We use this method to uncover the causation and sufficiency of fiber diameter in the initiation of concentric wrapping by rat oligodendrocytes. We also show that oligodendrocyte precursor cells display sensitivity to the biophysical properties of fiber diameter and initiate membrane ensheathment before differentiation. The use of nanofiber scaffolds will enable screening for potential therapeutic agents that promote oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination and will also provide valuable insight into the processes involved in remyelination.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Action potential, Multiple sclerosis, Axon, Myelin, Oligodendrocyte, Saltatory conduction


OBJECTIVE: To assess whether three novel interventions, formulated based on a systems medicine therapeutic concept, reduced disease activity in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) who were either treated or not with disease-modifying treatment. DESIGN: A 30-month randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel design, phase II proof-of-concept clinical study. SETTINGS: Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics. PARTICIPANTS: 80 participants were randomised into four groups of 20 each. A total of 41 (51%) patients completed the 30-month trial. The eligibility criteria were an age of 18-65; a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS according to the McDonald criteria; a score of 0.0-5.5 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS); MRI showing lesions consistent with MS; at least one documented clinical relapse and either receiving or not a disease-modifying treatment within the 24-month period before enrolment in the study. Patients were excluded because of a recent (<30 days) relapse, prior immunosuppressant or monoclonal antibody therapy, pregnancy or nursing, other severe disease compromising organ function, progressive MS, history of recent drug or alcohol abuse, use of any additional food supplements, vitamins or any form of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and a history of severe allergic or anaphylactic reactions or known specific nutritional hypersensitivity. INTERVENTIONS: The first intervention (A) was composed of Ω-3 and Ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids at 1:1 wt/wt. Specifically, the Ω-3 fatty acids were docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid at 3:1 wt/wt, and the Ω-6 fatty acids were linoleic acid and γ-linolenic acid at 2:1 wt/wt. This intervention also included minor quantities of other specific polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids as well as vitamin A and vitamin E (α-tocopherol). The second intervention (B, PLP10) was a combination of A and γ-tocopherol. The third intervention (C) was γ-tocopherol alone. The fourth group of 20 participants received placebo. The interventions were administered per os (by mouth) once daily, 30 min before dinner for 30 months. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary end point was the annualised relapse rate (ARR) of the three interventions versus the placebo at 2 years. The secondary end point was the time to confirmed disability progression at 2 years. RESULTS: A total of 41 (51%) patients completed the 30-month trial. Overall, for the per-protocol analysis of the 2-year primary end point, eight relapses were recorded in the PLP10 group (n=10; 0.40 ARR) versus 25 relapses in the placebo group (n=12; 1.04 ARR), representing a 64% adjusted relative rate reduction for the PLP10 group (RRR 0.36, 95% CI 0.15 to 0.87, p=0.024). In a subgroup analysis that excluded patients on monoclonal antibody (natalizumab) treatment, the observed adjusted RRR became stronger (72%) over the 2 years (RRR 0.28, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.79, p=0.016). The per-protocol analysis for the secondary outcome at 2 years, the time to disability progression, was significantly longer only for PLP10. The cumulative probability of disability progression at 2 years was 10% in the PLP10 group and 58% in the placebo group (unadjusted log-rank p=0.019). In a subgroup analysis that excluded patients on natalizumab, the cumulative probability of progression was 10% for the 10 patients in the PLP10 group and 70% for the 12 patients in the placebo group, representing a relative 86% decrease in the risk of the sustained progression of disability in the PLP10 group (unadjusted log-rank p=0.006; adjusted HR, 0.11; 95% CI 0.01 to 0.97, p=0.047). No adverse events were reported. Interventions A (10 patients) and C (9 patients) showed no significant efficacy. CONCLUSIONS: In this small proof-of-concept, randomised, double-blind clinical trial; the PLP10 treatment significantly reduced the ARR and the risk of sustained disability progression without any reported serious adverse events. Larger studies are needed to further assess the safety and efficacy of PLP10. TRIAL REGISTRATION: International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial, number ISRCTN87818535.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Multiple sclerosis, Linoleic acid


Recent evidence has indicated an association between chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) and multiple sclerosis. Small internal jugular veins (IJVs) (with a cross-sectional area of less than 0.4 cm2) have been previously described as difficult to catheterize, and their presence may potentially affect cerebrospinal venous drainage. In this blinded extracranial color-Doppler study we had two principal aims: first, to assess prevalence of CCSVI among Serbian MS patients compared to healthy controls; and second, to assess prevalence of small IJVs (with a CSA <= 0.4 cm2) among MS patients and controls.

Concepts: Multiple sclerosis, Internal jugular vein, Jugular vein, Common facial vein, Area, Sclerotherapy, Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, Veins of the head and neck


BACKGROUND: Few studies have systematically addressed the role of epidural analgesia and caesarean delivery in predicting the post-partum disease activity in women with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)The objective of this study was to assess the impact of epidural analgesia (EA) and caesarean delivery (CD) on the risk of post-partum relapses and disability in women with MS. METHODS: In the context of an Italian prospective study on the safety of immunomodulators in pregnancy, we included pregnancies occurred between 2002 and 2008 in women with MS regularly followed-up in 21 Italian MS centers. Data were gathered through a standardized, semi-structured interview, dealing with pregnancy outcomes, breastfeeding, type of delivery (vaginal or caesarean) and EA. The risk of post-partum relapses and disability progression (1 point on the Expanded Disability Status Sclae, EDSS, point, confirmed after six months) was assessed through a logistic multivariate regression analysis. RESULTS: We collected data on 423 pregnancies in 415 women. Among these, 349 pregnancies resulted in full term deliveries, with a post-partum follow-up of at least one year (mean follow-up period 5.5+/-3.1 years). One hundred and fifty-five patients (44.4%) underwent CD and 65 (18.5%) EA. In the multivariate analysis neither CD, nor EA were associated with a higher risk of post-partum relapses. Post-partum relapses were related to a higher EDSS score at conception (OR=1.42; 95%CI 1.11-1.82; p=0.005), a higher number of relapses in the year before pregnancy (OR=1.62; 95%CI 1.15-2.29; p=0.006) and during pregnancy (OR=3.07; 95% CI 1.40-6.72; p=0.005). Likewise, CD and EA were not associated with disability progression on the EDSS after delivery. The only significant predictor of disability progression was the occurrence of relapses in the year after delivery (disability progression in the year after delivery: OR= 4.00; 95%CI 2.0-8.2; p<0.001; disability progression over the whole follow-up period: OR= 2.0; 95%CI 1.2-3.3; p=0.005). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings, show no correlation between EA, CD and postpartum relapses and disability. Therefore these procedures can safely be applied in MS patients. On the other hand, post-partum relapses are significantly associated with increased disability, which calls for the need of preventive therapies after delivery.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Childbirth, Obstetrics, Multiple sclerosis, Caesarean delivery on maternal request, Epidural, Caesarean section, Placenta accreta


Interferon-beta (IFNB) therapy for multiple sclerosis can lead to the induction of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) against IFNB. Various methods are used for detection and quantification of NAbs.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Cytokine, Natural killer cell, Interferon, Multiple sclerosis, Interferon beta-1a, Interferon beta-1b


BACKGROUND: The anti-JC virus (JCV) antibody status has been introduced to stratify patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) for higher or lower risk of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). OBJECTIVE: To assess the potential utility of anti-JCV antibody levels for earlier diagnosis or prediction of PML. METHODS: An analytically validated antibody assay was used to determine serological status, normalised optical density values, and dilution titres for anti-JCV antibodies. The method was applied to stored sera of 1157 patients with MS including five cases of PML, all enrolled in the Swedish pharmacovigilance study for natalizumab (NAT). Anticytomegalovirus (CMV) and antivaricella-zoster (VZV) antibody levels served as controls. RESULTS: Prior to treatment with NAT, anti-JCV antibody levels were stable in the anti-JCV positive patients. During therapy, a slight decrease in anti-JCV and anti-VZV antibody levels, but not anti-CMV antibody levels, was observed. All five patients who developed PML showed a mild to moderate increase in anti-JCV antibody levels at time of PML diagnosis; pre-PML samples suggested that this increase might start already prior to diagnosis of PML. CONCLUSIONS: Treatment initiation with NAT may lead to a slight decrease in anti-JCV and anti-VZV antibody levels, suggestive of a mild suppressive effect of NAT on antibody levels. Our findings in five cases of PML demonstrate that the onset of PML can be accompanied by increasing anti-JCV antibodies in serum. Monitoring of anti-JCV antibody levels could potentially be used as a tool for prediction or earlier diagnosis of PML during NAT treatment for MS. Further studies are warranted.

Concepts: Antibody, Density, Multiple sclerosis, ELISA, Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, JC virus, Serology, Natalizumab