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Nano sensor detects early stages of MS(25/08/15)

A nanometric sensor may be able to identify biomarkers of conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), neuromyelitis optica, and certain types of cancer, according to research published in Sensors Journal.

Researchers in Brazil developed a nano biosensor originally for detecting herbicides, heavy metals, and other pollutants. However, the transition into neurological and demyelinating diseases was prompted by a partnership with colleagues. The importance of this device is to be able to detect and diagnose these chronic illnesses before they advance beyond the beginning stages. These devices should also reduce the chance for false diagnoses, the researchers believe. However, MRI scans would still be necessary to confirm diagnoses because of the multifaceted criteria for these diseases.

“It’s a highly sensitive device, which we developed in collaboration with Alberto Luís Dario Moreau, a professor at the Sao Paulo Federal Institute of Education, Science, and Technology,” physicist Fábio de Lima Leite, a professor at the Federal University of Sao Carlos, Sorocaba, and the coordinator of the research group, said in a news release. “We were able to increase sensitivity dramatically by going down to the nanometric scale.”

By placing a drop of a patient’s cerebrospinal fluid on a glass slide and using the nano biosensor, the researchers can measure the interaction.

“If the interaction is low, we’ll be able to rule out MS with great confidence,” Leite explained. “High interaction will indicate that the person is very likely to have the condition. Different nervous system diseases have highly similar symptoms. MS and neuromyelitis optica are just two examples. Even specialists experience difficulties or take a long time to diagnose them. Our technique would provide a differential diagnostic tool.”

In the future, the investigators want to examine biomarkers for these conditions that have yet to be mapped, such as antibodies and antigens, and others. Testing for the detection of head and neck cancer has also begun.

Source: MD All Specialities Copyright MD Magazine 2006-2015 Intellisphere, LLC (25/08/15)

MSPrecise accuracy revealed(31/07/15)

A new study testing Amarantus Diagnostics’ MSPrecise on multiple sclerosis patients identified the test as a specific and sensitive diagnostic test for multiple sclerosis. The test accurately diagnosed 84 per cent of multiple sclerosis patients from a broad range of subjects with potential neurological diseases.

“MSPrecise scoring is a powerful approach to aid clinicians in this task,” said Colin Bier, Chief Development Officer of Amarantus Diagnostics, in information provided to Multiple Sclerosis News Today. “In this study there is an overall MSPrecise accuracy of 84 per cent in identifying relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients or patients that will develop RRMS, which represents a huge benefit to physicians.”

The 2013 study, MSPrecise: A Molecular Diagnostic Test For Multiple Sclerosis Using Next Generation Sequencing, has now been published in the journal Gene. Initiating the study, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center, UMass Memorial Medical Center, John Hopkins University, and DioGenix Inc. were interested in testing the accuracy of MSPrecise. This test uses samples of cerebrospinal fluid to analyze mutations in the VH4 gene of B-cells. B-cells have been shown to accumulate VH4 gene mutations in patients with the early stages of RRMS. The number of specific replacement mutations can be quantified to “score” the patient for the likelihood of developing or converting to RRMS, giving clinicians another tool in their toolbox for diagnosing multiple sclerosis.

“Given the early misdiagnoses that often occur with multiple sclerosis, physicians have an increasing need for new methods to accurately diagnose their patients,” said Bier. In the study, the researchers obtained cerebrospinal fluid cell pellets from 26 patients with an undiagnosed neurological disease and 13 patients with confirmed RRMS. When the researchers used MSPrecise to amplify VH4 gene segments, they were able to predict RRMS with a sensitivity of 75 per cent and a specificity of 88 per cent in the undiagnosed patients and an accuracy of 84 per cent in the RRMS patients.

Amarantus is continuing to develop the ability to diagnose RRMS and has a blood-based version of MSPrecise in the works. The company also conducted a study that showed additional features for MSPrecise that increase the accuracy of the test. “In early 2015, Amarantus reported data from a later study that showed a significant increase in the accuracy of MSPrecise when adding oligoclonal banding (OCB) to the algorithm,” said Bier. “We intend to publish those data combining MSPrecise and OCB in the near future.”

In addition, Amarantus will continue to validate the current iteration of MSPrecise.

“Our immediate focus is to conduct a CLIA-validation study in order to make the test commercially available, and plans are being finalised in this regard,” said Gerald E. Commissiong, President & CEO of Amarantus Bioscience Holdings. “We also plan to conduct future investigational studies to determine whether MSPrecise scoring using NGS platforms may be utilised to identify clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) patients who will convert to RRMS. Additionally, a more expansive clinical study with a larger patient cohort including several sub-cohorts of RRMS patients on disease modifying therapies and OND patients is also planned.”

According to Amarantus, “MSPrecise would augment the current standard of care for the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis by providing a more accurate assessment of a patient’s immune response to a challenge within the central nervous system.” Amarantus also hopes to use NGS to discern between individuals who may develop progressive multiple sclerosis, increasing the population of patients the company helps.

Source: Multiple Sclerosis News Today © BioNews Services 2015 (31/07/15)

Herbicide detector could help with multiple sclerosis diagnosis (24/06/15)

The early diagnosis of certain types of cancer, multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica, may soon be facilitated by the use of a nanometric sensor capable of identifying key biomarkers.

The nanobiosensor was developed at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), Sorocaba, in partnership with the São Paulo Federal Institute of Education, Science & Technology (IFSP), Itapetininga, São Paulo State, Brazil and was originally designed to detect herbicides, heavy metals and other pollutants.

"It's a highly sensitive device, which we developed in collaboration with Alberto Luís Dario Moreau, a professor at IFSP," said physicist Fábio de Lima Leite, a professor at UFSCar and the coordinator of the research group.

"We were able to increase sensitivity dramatically by going down to the nanometric scale,"

The nanobiosensor consists of a silicon nitride (Si3N4) or silicon (Si) nanoprobe with a molecular-scale elastic constant and a nanotip coupled to an enzyme, protein or other molecule.

When this molecule touches a target of interest, such as an antibody or antigen, the probe bends as the two molecules adhere. The deflection is detected and measured by the device, enabling scientists to identify the target.

"We started by detecting herbicides and heavy metals. Now we're testing the device for use in detecting target molecules typical of nervous system diseases, in partnership with colleagues at leading centres of research on demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system"

The migration from herbicide detection to antibody detection was motivated mainly by the difficulty of diagnosing demyelinating diseases, cancer and other chronic conditions before they have advanced beyond an initial stage.

The criteria for establishing a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis or neuromyelitis optica are clinical (supplemented by MRI scans), and patients do not always present with a characteristic clinical picture. More precise diagnosis entails ruling out several other options first.

The development of nanodevices will be of assistance in identifying these diseases and reducing the chances of false diagnosis.

The procedure can be as simple as placing a drop of the patient's cerebrospinal fluid on a glass slide and observing its interaction with the nanobiosensor.

"If the interaction is low, we'll be able to rule out multiple sclerosis with great confidence," Leite said.

"High interaction will indicate that the person is very likely to have the disease." In this case, further testing would be required to exclude the possibility of a false positive.

"Different nervous system diseases have highly similar symptoms. Multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica are just two examples. Even specialists experience difficulties or take a long time to diagnose them. Our technique would provide a differential diagnostic tool," Leite said.

The next step for the group is to research biomarkers for these diseases that have not been completely mapped, including antibodies and antigens, among others. The group has begun tests for the detection of head and neck cancer.

Source: Phys.org © Phys.org 2003 - 2015, Science X network (24/06/15)

Tags: MS, multiplesclerosis, cancer, nervous system diseases, nanometric, neuromyelitis optica, research

New technology looks into the eye and brings cells into focus(23/06/15)

Eye doctors could soon be using computing power to help them see individual cells in the back of a patient's eye, thanks to imaging technology developed by engineers at the University of Illinois.

Such detailed pictures of the cells, blood vessels and nerves at the back of the eye could enable earlier diagnosis and better treatment for degenerative eye and neurological conditions.

The technique applies adaptive optics – the method astronomers use to correct telescope images so they can more clearly see stars beyond the twinkling – to the instruments that scan the retina at the back of the eye. However, the Illinois team does the correction computationally, instead of using complex hardware. Led by electrical and computer engineering professor Stephen Boppart, the research team published its work in the journal Nature Photonics.

"The eye has always been a bit of a challenge to image. It's a very complicated organ," said Dr Boppart.

"There are many microscopic structures that are hard to see. Many diseases that affect vision also start at the microscopic level, so being able to see those early changes is going to lead to better, earlier treatment."

The prevailing imaging technique in ophthalmology, known as optical coherence tomography or OCT, is useful for general imaging of the eye but cannot focus down to the scale of individual rods and cones, the light-sensitive cells lining the retina that make sight possible. In addition, OCT images are often blurred by the eye's imperfections and constant motion.

Computational adaptive optics applies complex algorithms to OCT data correcting for eye aberrations and motion, yielding high-resolution, real-time images that show individual cells and nerves.

Hardware-based adaptive optics systems have been developed to enhance OCT imaging with elaborate setups of lenses, mirrors and lasers, but such systems are so costly and unwieldy that they are impractical for clinical use, Boppart said. However, the new computational approach could be applied to existing OCT systems, with minor hardware updates to older systems for compatibility.

Computational adaptive optics also hold an advantage over hardware setups in that they can tailor themselves to a patient's unique eye structures and shape, and doctors can take one quick scan and afterward focus in on different parts of the eye.

"I think computational adaptive optics can be really helpful to the clinical community," said Fredrick South, a graduate student and a co-author of the paper.

"It could give ophthalmologists information that, currently, they have to infer from other measurements. They can't directly look at the photoreceptors and watch them die off during macular degeneration, for example. They just have to guess what's going on. It could be possible to use computational adaptive optics in these real-world applications both for diagnosis of disease and tracking of treatments."

The researchers are initially focusing on using computational adaptive optics to track age-related macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, and multiple sclerosis. Since nerve fibres make up the top layer of the retina, the eye could be a unique window into nerve health for multiple sclerosis patients, Boppart said. The researchers hope the detailed pictures gleaned from applying computational adaptive optics can illuminate how changes in the retina correspond to disease severity and track how cells and nerves respond to treatments.

"The eye is so important, because we rely on sight more than any of our other senses," Boppart said. "Here's a technology that was developed basically to remove the twinkle from stars, and now we want to use it to correct imperfections left by Mother Nature, allowing us to see patients' eyes better and to help them more."

Source: Phys.org © Phys.org 2003 - 2015, Science X network (23/06/15)

Tags: MS, Multiple Sclerosis, degenerative eye, neurological diseases, research

3-D study of receptors throws up "surprises"(19/06/15)

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have teamed up with several other institutions and pharmaceutical companies, including the University of Southern California (USC), San Diego's Receptos Inc. and Japanese company Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., to publish the first 3D structures of a receptor implicated in many diseases of the brain and in normal physiology throughout the body.

Surprisingly, the structures revealed a new understanding of the body's use of cannabinoids—a naturally produced substance chemically related to marijuana.

The new research, published June 18, 2015, in the journal Cell, sheds light on the molecular architecture of receptors for a family of small fat molecules known as lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), part of a larger class of fat molecules (lysophospholipids) linked to conditions including hydrocephalus, pain, hypoxic brain damage, psychiatric disorders, multiple sclerosis, fibrosis and cancer.

"The study has particular relevance to understanding and possibly treating the brain," said TSRI Professor Jerold Chun. "This structure is the first for an LPA receptor—and it revealed a couple of surprises."

Chun is co-senior author of the study with Michael A. Hanson, president of GPCR Consortium and former director of structural biology at Receptos, and Raymond Stevens, director of the Bridge Institute at USC and founding director of iHuman Institute of ShanghaiTech University.

Chun and his colleagues first identified the protein, called lysophosphatidic acid receptor 1 (LPA1), in studies of the brain nearly 20 years ago. The LPA1 receptor sits within and spans membranes of cells to bind with LPA in the body. When bound, LPA1 sends a signal into the cell to influence a range of functions, such as cell migration, shape, survival and proliferation.

While the scientists knew the importance of LPA1, the Chun lab's studies into the biology of the molecule indicated that it was a kind of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), known to be difficult to image.

To overcome this challenge, in this study the team used techniques developed by Stevens and colleagues to stabilise the receptor in the presence of drug-like molecules synthesised by researchers at Ono Pharmaceutical. Stevens noted the work by Ono and the chemistry it did to enable the structural biology (with a focus on lung fibrosis) was a big breakthrough.

This collaboration enabled the formation of crystals that were used for x-ray crystallography, a high-resolution imaging technique.

The resulting data revealed two important features of LPA1.

One was the discovery that LPA1 lacks any sort of "cap" on top of it. Instead, it has an opening where ligands (binding partners, rather like keys to locks) can slip from the outside of the cell into the binding pocket. This allows ligands from aqueous sources to avoid the water-repelling lipids surrounding the receptor, solving the long-standing mystery of how LPA bound to proteins in blood and other fluids could easily activate LPA1.

Importantly, the researchers found LPA1 has a "baggy" binding pocket, suggesting that other molecules could bind within it. This route of entry contrasts with that of S1P1, a previously crystalised receptor for a distinct lysophospholipid (called sphingosine 1-phosphate or S1P), which possesses a more linear, rigid binding pocket.

This structural detail enabled the identification of new ligands capable of activating LPA1. Prior studies from the Chun lab had identified protein sequence similarities between LPA1 and cannabinoid receptors, but the commonly known ligands for these receptors did not activate LPA1. The structural data led the researchers to examine modified versions of cannabinoid ligands that might activate LPA1.

The new publication proved this prediction true, providing the first evidence of "cross-talk" between the two systems via a common receptor and establishing a new relationship between two, distinct families of fats—LPAs and the cannabinoids—offering new strategies for understanding and therapeutically accessing these distinct lipid signals.

"This series of structures further illuminates the field of lipid receptors enhancing our understanding of how closely related GPCRs distinguish between very similar endogenous ligands not only through binding interactions but also through route of entry," said Hansen.

"This is a new way of understanding a fundamental interaction between signalling lipids and their receptors," said Chun.

Chun calls the new study the "end of one chapter" his lab started 20 years ago with the identification of LPA1 "and the start of another" through the newly established links to cannabinoid signalling. "This feels good, and I'm happy to have been a part of it," said Chun.

Source: Phys.org © Phys.org 2003 - 2015, Science X network (19/06/15)

Brain implant senses 'intent' to move robotic arm(22/05/15)

A new kind of brain implant senses a patient's intent to move a robotic arm, offering new promise to people who are paralyzed or have lost limbs, researchers claim.

Erik Sorto, 34, is "the first person in the world to have a neural prosthetic device implanted in a region of the brain where intentions are made," said the study in the journal Science.

Sorto, who was paralysed from the neck down at age 21 after a gunshot wound, can now make a hand-shaking gesture, grab a cup to drink from and even play "rock, paper, scissors" with his robotic arm.

Previous attempts to use brain implants to control prosthetics have been placed in the motor cortex, which controls motion.

This experiment was done by placing two micro-electrode arrays in the posterior parietal cortex, or PPC. This part of the brain processes plans for movements including reach and grasp.

"When you move your arm, you really don't think about which muscles to activate and the details of the movement -- such as lift the arm, extend the arm, grasp the cup, close the hand around the cup, and so on," said principal investigator Richard Andersen, professor of neuroscience at Caltech.

"Instead, you think about the goal of the movement, for example, 'I want to pick up that cup of water.' So in this trial, we were successfully able to decode these actual intents, by asking the subject to simply imagine the movement as a whole, rather than breaking it down into a myriad of components."

The result is a more fluid movement than the jerky kind of motions seen in previous experiments, scientists said.

Sorto received the brain implant in 2013 and has been practicing with it at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Centre ever since, learning to control a robotic arm that is not attached to his body.

He was able to control the arm in his very first attempt, about two weeks after his brain surgery.

Video images released by the science team show Sorto controlling a computer cursor, drinking a beverage and making a hand-shaking gesture with the arm.

"I was surprised at how easy it was," said Sorto, a single father of two.

"I joke around with the guys that I want to be able to drink my own beer - to be able to take a drink at my own pace, when I want to take a sip out of my beer and to not have to ask somebody to give it to me. I really miss that independence," he added.

"I think that if it were safe enough, I would really enjoy grooming myself - shaving, brushing my own teeth. That would be fantastic."

The clinical trial was a collaboration between Caltech, the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Centre.

"These very important early clinical trials could provide hope for patients with all sorts of neurologic problems that involve paralysis such as stroke, brain injury, ALS and even multiple sclerosis," said co-author Christianne Heck, associate professor of neurology at USC.

Source: The Daily Mail © Associated Newspapers Ltd 2015 (22/05/15)

Genzyme and Ablynx form MS pact(18/05/15)

Sanofi group Genzyme and Belgian biotech Ablynx have formed a pact to investigate the latter’s nanobodies against a target that plays an important role in MS, in the hope of targeting the neurodegeneration linked with the condition.

Under the research deal, Genzyme has bought itself the right to perform in vitro and in vivo research with Ablynx’s Nanobodies in MS-relevant models in return for an undisclosed exclusivity fee. When these studies are complete, Genzyme has the option of negotiating a license agreement.

Ablynx has already generated “potent” Nanobodies against the Genzyme’s target of interest and confirmed their activity in preclinical models, the firm noted.

Commenting on the move, Johanne Kaplan, who heads up Neuroimmunology Research at Genzyme, said the project supports its research “that includes the exploration of novel therapeutic platforms to address unmet needs in multiple sclerosis”.

Further terms of the deal were not released.

Source: PharmaTimes Copyright PharmaTimes 2015 (18/05/15)

Blood test study findings revealed(12/05/15)

Amarantus BioScience Holdings says it has reported preliminary data from the blood-based version of its MSPrecise® diagnostic, the Company's proprietary multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnostic test.

MSPrecise, a next-generation DNA sequencing (NGS) assay, measures DNA mutations found in rearranged immunoglobulin genes in immune cells (B cells) to identify patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) at first clinical presentation.

Results from the most recent MSPrecise validation study using cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples for MS, reported in January 2015, demonstrated an 86 per cent sensitivity and 71 per cent specificity in correctly identifying early-stage RRMS in subjects being evaluated for a demyelinating disease undergoing the current diagnostic standard of care (clinical evaluation, magnetic resonance imaging and oligoclonal banding tests), as adjudicated by an expert panel of physicians. When combined with oligoclonal banding tests (OCB), sensitivity improved to 96 per cent and specificity improved to 83 per cent.

In the study, preliminary results indicate the MSPrecise blood assay exhibited an 81 per cent sensitivity and 89 per cent specificity for identifying early-stage RRMS in subjects being evaluated for a demyelinating disease undergoing the current diagnostic standard of care. These results have not yet been combined with OCB and will require replication prior to moving into a CLIA validation study.

"These early findings are encouraging, and provide a pathway to further define and refine the MSPrecise blood assay," said Colin Bier, Chief Development Officer of Amarantus Diagnostics.

"Of particular importance, in this initial blood study, is the promising and positive analytical performance. There is such a high rate of misdiagnosis of MS, especially upon first clinical presentation of this chronic and extremely debilitating disease, that a blood test would be of great benefit to patients and physicians. We are preparing MSPrecise CSF for a CLIA-enabling validation study and, in parallel, will actively continue research and development of the MSPrecise blood assay."

Source: Nasdaq GlobalNewswire © 2015 GlobeNewswire, Inc (12/05/15)

Researcher takes sharper look at MS(07/05/15)

A young researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital is exploring ways to diagnose and track multiple sclerosis more accurately with stronger and faster imaging technologies.

Using ultra high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at Massachusetts General Hospital, a physician-scientist in the MGH Multiple Sclerosis Clinic is pioneering revolutionary new ways to see the disease in the brains of human patients. Ultimately, this improved imaging may permit doctors to more accurately track the disease in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and find ways to provide faster, better treatment and earlier diagnosis.

“MRI has really revolutionised the way we assess MS,” says Eric C. Klawiter, MD, assistant neurologist in Mass General’s Department of Neurology, who is leading efforts to use new MRI technologies to help MS patients.

Dr. Klawiter is also working with a super-fast MRI scanner unique to Mass General to study connections in the living brain. Developed as part of the National Institutes of Health Human Connectome Project, it’s a remarkable tool for MS research. Currently, a pilot study comparing brain connectivity data from healthy subjects and people with MS is underway, Dr. Klawiter says. It could yield clues for treating cognitive problems, which affect roughly half of people with MS.

Additionally, Dr. Klawiter hopes to use the scanner to develop reliable markers for MS, such as one that helps identify when myelin is being stripped away. A similar marker for axon damage, which may correlate with disability, might be even more useful. Finding these markers can greatly accelerate drug development. In addition, these imaging breakthroughs could lead to earlier diagnosis, which could allow doctors to take preventive steps that will help patients before the disease begins to take its toll.

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital © 2015 Massachusetts General Hospital (07/05/15)

MRI patterns decipher between MS and VWM(23/04/15)

Researchers say they have found evidence that makes it easier to differentiate between multiple sclerosis (MS) and vanishing white matter disease (VWM) – conditions that can show considerable similarities.

According to a presentation at the American Academy of Neurology in Washington, DC, diagnosing primary and secondary progressive multiple already presents a challenge because the signs – like large and confluent lesions and multiple cavitary lesions – are rarely shown on a brain MRI. However, the comparable symptoms with VRM can cause a misdiagnosis.

“It is important to identify specific MRI findings that can be relevant diagnostic tools,” the study’s authors wrote.

Lead author Xavier Ayrignac, of the Department of Neurology in Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montpellier in France, and his colleagues evaluated 14 MS and 14 VWM patients to find key differences between their brain scans.

“In this context, the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can be difficult and a diagnosis of VWM should be considered,” Ayrignac and his team determined.

When cavitary lesions show up on the MRI, it becomes more challenging to decipher between the central nervous system diseases. The researchers focused on specific features including regional atrophy, white matter and gray matter hyperintensities location and type, and posterior fossa involvement along with middle cerebellar peduncle and cerebellar white matter lesions.

While similar results were indicated between the MS and VWM patients – like focal atrophy, basal ganglia atrophy, and corpus callosum atrophy – the investigators found important individualized characteristics for the diseases:

- Cerebellum atrophy: 8 (57%) MS patients, 13 (93%) VWM patients
- Topography of the lesions (thalamus): 10 (71%) MS patients, 1 (7%) VWM patients
- Topography of the lesions (midbrain): 11 (79%) MS patients, 4 (29%) VWM patients
- Extensive juxtacortical lesions: 7 (50%) MS patients, 14 (100%) VWM patients
- Ovoid perpendicular to the ventricle: 14 (100%) MS patients, 0 VWM patients
- Corpus callosum extensive: 9 (64%) MS patients, 14 (100%) VWM patients
- Extensive lesions (external capsule): 4 (29%) MS patients, 12 (86%) VWM patients
- Perivascular cavitary lesions: 10/12 (83%) MS patients, 1/6 (17%) VWM patients
- Infratentorial symmetrical: 0 MS patients, 6/12 (50%) VWM patients
- Fluid like cavitary lesions: 3 (21%) MS patients, 9 (64%) VWM patients

“Nevertheless, our results suggest that the analysis of characteristics of MRI findings including topography and morphology of the lesions is of major diagnosis importance for the differential diagnosis of these 2 disorders,” the team concluded.

Source: MD All Specialities Copyright HCPLive 2006-2015 Intellisphere, LLC (23/04/15)

Study suggests wearables could help MS patients(15/04/15)

A three-week study by Biogen and the American patient network PatientsLikeMe claims to have found patients with multiple sclerosis can benefit from a wearable device that tracks their activity, reports the Boston Business Journal.

Biogen and the patient platform, which collects and shares patient experiences on its website, conducted the study to show the feasibility of using wearables.

“MS impairs the ability to walk for many people with MS, yet we only assess walking ability in the limited time a patient is in the doctor’s office,” said Dr. Richard Rudick, vice president of value-based medicine at Biogen.

“Consumer devices can measure number of steps, distance walked, and sleep quality on a continuous basis in a person’s home environment. These data could provide potentially important information to supplement office visit exams.”

The study found patients were receptive to wearing a device and sharing their data, and said the device helped prompt patients to be more active and helped them manage their MS.

Of the 248 PatientsLikeMe members who were provided with activity trackers, 213 activated the device and authorized PatientsLikeMe to access their data. Another 203 tracked data on the device.

Source: Boston Business Journal © 2015 American City Business Journals (15/04/15)

Australia gets cutting-edge microscope(02/02/15)

The "secrets of life" could be revealed by a powerful new microscope, the only one of its kind in Australia.

THE $5million, three-metre tall microscope, unveiled at Monash University in Melbourne, allows researchers to see molecular structures at very high resolution.

"This is one of the most exciting days of my life," said Professor James Whisstock, the Australian Research Centre's director of advanced molecular imaging.

Professor Whisstock hopes the microscope will lead to better treatments for cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

"Understanding our immune system is central to fighting cancer, infectious diseases such as malaria, and auto-immune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatism and multiple sclerosis.

"The key to understanding and treating these diseases lies in understanding how proteins and cells interact at the molecular level."

Professor Whisstock said the instrument highlights how physics and engineering together can be used to answer biological problems.

"We need physicists and engineers to be able to build these devices that can see the secrets of life."

Until now Australian scientists had to travel to Europe, the UK or the US in order to access similar microscopes.

"The problem with that is transporting biological material internationally is quite hard."

The Dutch-made Titan Krios instrument works by firing electrons through a sample.

Some of the electrons in the beam are deflected and these rays can be used to create a 2D image of the sample. Multiple 2D images can then be automatically pieced together to create 3D images of molecules.

Source: The Australian (02/02/15)

Google, Biogen team up for multiple sclerosis research(28/01/15)

Google, expanding its foray into medical research, will join Biogen Idec, maker of MS drugs, to study environmental and biological contributors to the condition’s progression.

The collaboration is the second major pharmaceutical partnership for the life science division of Google X labs, which has produced Google Glass and self-driving cars. Google X sees itself as providing the technical and innovative fire power for a “moonshot” in the health care field, said head of the division Andrew Conrad.

“Our central thesis is to change health care from being reactive to proactive,” Mr Conrad said. “We’re trying to understand condition at its onset and see if we can intervene early.”

Using sensors, software and data analysis tools, the companies will collect and sift through data from people with MS. The goal is to explain why the disease progresses differently from patient to patient, said Rick Rudick, Biogen’s vice president of development sciences.

“We used to see patients at the beginning stages of MS — two women would come in with optic neuritis, they couldn’t see out of one eye, they’d have some spots on the MRI scan, and they looked very similar,” said Rudick, who was previously director of the Cleveland Clinic’s MS program. “But as we followed them along, 10 years later, one would be a championship tennis player still and one would be in a nursing home. I never understood that.”

Biogen leads the market with five MS drugs and is using new technology to gather round-the-clock data on patients. It has run a Fitbit study to see whether fitness bands could be reliable data-gathering tools, and is developing an iPad app with the Cleveland Clinic to help physicians better assess their patients’ MS progression.

While Rudick and Conrad declined to comment on the terms of the deal, Conrad said it would probably be a multi-year effort.

MS affects 2.3 million people worldwide, according to America’s National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It causes the immune system to attack myelin, a fatty substance that coats and protects nerve fibers. Patients can experience tingling, problems with walking and degrading vision. Their symptoms get worse as MS progresses.

There are no approved cures, only drugs that help suppress the immune system or manage symptoms. Patients typically see their doctors a few times a year, meaning their day-to-day experiences aren’t catalogued.

More data may help Biogen develop more-effective drugs, or better understand which drugs should go to which patients. The experience of patients could also help Biogen prove the value of its medicine to insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, which are cracking down on high-priced drugs. MS treatments typically have wholesale prices of $50,000 a year.

After Chief Executive Officer George Scangos ran into Conrad at a digital health conference, according to Conrad. Scangos saw the opportunity to combine the search giant’s technical savvy with Biogen’s knowledge about MS.

“They bring great expertise in data analytics and technology, they’re sophisticated in their approach, they understand biology,” Scangos said, listing reasons why Biogen turned to Google instead of an academic partner.

The collaboration also deepens Google’s commitment to the health industry. Google X ventured into health care in January 2014 with the announcement of a smart contact-lens project.

The lens, developed to measure glucose in diabetes patients’ tears, was licensed by Novartis AG in July. Google X also bought health-tech startup Lift Labs, which makes cutlery that could counteract tremors experienced by people with Parkinson’s.

Conrad has 150 scientists working for him, including astrophysicists, theoretical mathematicians, oncologists, immunologists, electrical engineers and computer scientists.

“What I think and hope we’re good at,” he said, “is trying to do this moonshot, innovative thinking, where it’s OK to fail, and we’re looking for partners to join in these endeavours.”

Source: SFGate (28/01/15)

Novel brain measurement software used in major MS study(22/12/14)

Icometrix, a biotechnology company focused on unique projects for diagnosing and treating multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, has designed new software for the measurement of brain lesions and brain volumes and their changes over time. MS, a chronic and neurological condition that affects about 2.5 million people throughout the world, is often first detected in patients at a young age, and the company expects to improve diagnosis and treatment options with the measurements.

Icometrix expects its new software to be able to help MS patients who need to keep track of their brain volume and brain lesions with their physicians, since the two characteristics are directly connected to patients’ physical and cognitive capacities, which are progressively affected as the disease progresses.

“Complementary to the evaluation by the radiologist, we perform calculations on MRI scans of the brain, which most people with MS already undergo regularly,” explained the co-founder and Chief Business Officer of icometrix, Ir. Wim Van Hecke. “We are the first to calculate brain volume with such accuracy that it can be used in clinical practice. It is great that we can introduce this in 2014, which was launched as the ‘Year of the Brain,’ by the European Brain Council.”

The brain volume measurements will be used for assessment within the major, multi-center project organized by the Belgian Study Group for Multiple Sclerosis, which has been working for 50 years since its foundation to enhance both research and treatment of MS in Belgium. The group gathers the most recognised Belgian MS neurologists as well as MS investigators. In the case of this study, 12 Belgian hospitals and MS centres and one other hospital in Luxembourg will participate in order to assess brain scans of more than 200 MS patients.

“Neurologists are very interested in reliable measures that can tell us something about the state of the brain of an MS patient,” stated the head of Neurology of the National MS Center in Melsbroek, Prof. Guy Nagels. “We believe this information can help us take better decisions for our patients,” Prof. Nagels stated. “The potential of these measures also goes beyond MS. In the future it might benefit patients with Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, or other neurological conditions.”

Wim Van Hecke emphasised the company’s excitement about the project, but noted that despite the high level of morale among the research team, the work will not end with this Belgium-based study, since he believes the measurements may be able to help patients and research worldwide. “Pilot studies are coming up and will start in the beginning of 2015 in The Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany and the US. In addition, we are very close to obtaining our CE and FDA approval, which means that our software is approved for clinical practice. And this is an important milestone for both icometrix and MS patients worldwide,” he added.

Source: Multiple Sclerosis News Today © BioNews-tx.com 2014 (22/12/14)

Study tests whether vibrating insoles improve MS balance(17/12/14)

A new Multiple Sclerosis pilot study was awarded a $39,000 grant by the US National Multiple Sclerosis Society to investigate how patients’ sensation in their feet while standing impacts balance and whether their ability to walk is improved through the use of vibrating insoles.

Multiple Sclerosis is characterised by the destruction of the inner layer of nerve cells, mainly composed of myelin. This destruction is thought to occur either by patients’ own immune systems attacking the central nervous system, specifically myelin, or by cells failing to produce this component. Currently without any cure, MS affects over 2.3 million people throughout the world, leading to a diverse symptomatic disease, impacting visual, sensory, and motor capabilities. As a consequence, MS patients exhibit major limitations, notably fatigue and balance impairments.

In this study, a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will evaluate the sensation in patients’ feet soles (analysing two different areas) and compare their results with healthy subjects. The analysis will be performed while sitting and standing up to determine how this impacts patients’ balance. The project introduces a new focus, since the majority of previous reports only determine patients’ parameters while lying down. Introducing a new standing parameter will allow determining how weight bearing impacts MS patients’ balance.

The authors are recruiting both patients with Multiple Sclerosis and healthy subjects aged between 21 and 65 years old. Notably, all the participants have to be able to walk and stand up without assistance. Participants’ ability to be enrolled in the study will be determine by different tests including, muscle strength and the 25-foot walk; additionally, patients will be analysed for skin sensation (pressure and vibration), standing balance and posture evaluation.

With all parameters evaluated, the project will determine the effect of a vibrant sole to be administered in patients’ feet while vibrating at low, undetectable frequencies. This will be achieved by small devices – “factors” — introduced in patients’ shoe soles in the areas previously assessed as the most sensitive. Patients will then be evaluated in a blind test, consisting of five different postures in five-minute intervals before repetition, during which patients will not know whether the “factors” are being used.

In a final phase of the study, these results will allow the researchers to test how these factors help Multiple Sclerosis patients in the presence of an unexpected balance challenge, such as standing on a platform that without notice moves 3 inches (8 cm).

The researchers highlight that the study will uncover the potential use of vibrating shoe soles in patients with balance impairments.

Stephanie Jones in the department of kinesiology at UMass Amherst commented, “There is a lot of evidence that the somatosensory system, that is the skin’s sensation and body awareness or proprioception, is affected in people with MS, who often report peripheral sensory loss, for example. This method exploits the phenomenon of stochastic resonance of the nervous system. It applies a kind of ‘noise’ that can enhance a person’s skin sensation. If we identify this mechanism of somatosensory impairment in MS, perhaps we can develop other interventions to try to do more.”

Source: Multiple Sclerosis News Today © Copyright 2014 BioNews Services, LLC (17/12/14)

Could multiple sclerosis be treated with video games?(15/12/14)

A team of researchers from Ohio State University received a $44,000 grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to fund the development and testing of an interactive video game designed to promote and supplement physical therapy among patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease of the motor neurons that is estimate to affect over 2.3 million people across the globe. The NMSS Pilot Research Grant will be used to fund a clinical trial to assess the efficacy of the video game, which will be funded for a year.

The interdisciplinary team of scientists is led by Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Associate Professor Roger Crawfis, together with Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Lynne Gauthier, and CSE grad student David Maung.

The game, “Recovery Rapids,” was originally conceptualised and programmed for stroke patients in need of rehabilitation for upper extremity motor impairment, which is also a common challenge in MS. Previous studies have shown the many benefits of promoting and maintaining physical activity and movement in managing the debilitating symptoms of MS, which the researchers believe can be more easily managed through a more engaging, fun approach.

All that is needed to play the game is a Microsoft Xbox Kinect body action sensor, which would allow the MS patient to engage in constraint-induced (CI) movement therapy usually conducted in the clinic. Recovery Rapids is a fun way to encourage physical activity and rehabilitative movement in that it requires the player to propel and steer a kayak and interact with items in the game environment, all in the comfort and convenience of home.

Professor Crawfis said that CI therapy has been proven to be a reliable method for motor rehabilitation for MS patients and that players of Recovery Rapids may gain the same hand and arm strengthening effects from the game as in-clinic CI therapy sessions.

Lynn Gauthier said that access to regular rehabilitation can be a challenge to many MS patients as transportation to the clinic can be quite tiring and limited for them. The researchers are hopeful that their “gamified” version can help make MS patients’ lives easier.

Source: Multiple Sclerosis News Today © Copyright 2014 BioNews Services, LLC (15/12/14)

Cambridge scientist awarded £150k for ground-breaking MS trials(02/10/14)

Treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients could be revolutionised in ground-breaking trials planned by a Cambridge scientist.

Dr Su Metcalfe, a University of Cambridge senior research associate based at Addenbrooke’s, has won a £150,000 award which will enable her team to proceed to pre-clinical trials in Nanotechnology.

The award is one of only five given out this year worldwide from major pharmaceutical company, Merck Serono, and the first to a UK scientist.

The technology developed for treatment of MS - an incurable autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system - by Dr Metcalfe uses tiny ‘smart’ nanoparticles that act as magic bullets to deliver powerful factors known to increase repair of damaged myelin. The key factor is “LIF”, a stem cell protein.

The money from the Merck-Serono’s “Grants for Multiple Sclerosis International” (GMSI) scheme will fund preclinical trials of Metcalfe’s nano-therapeutic device that taps into the body’s natural mechanisms for repair and avoids use of drugs.

“Nanotechnology is now recognised as a key platform for healthcare,” said Dr Metcalfe. “Our ‘smart’ technology allows us to target delivery of molecules able to repair myelin and also reduce inflammation.

“By using a nanoparticle platform where the safety in humans is already confirmed, a hugely important feature for rapid progress towards the clinic, we can now expect to move to clinical trials within three to five years.”

Multiple sclerosis commonly affects young adults and in the UK alone, more than 100,000 people have MS with 2,500 being diagnosed each year.

The disease causes damage to the nerve sheaths, or myelin, which normally insulate the electrical activity of nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord.

Specific nerves become inflamed and lose function and this disrupts messages from the brain to parts of the body, resulting in early symptoms of MS, such as impaired vision.

The award will link a small team of experts including bioengineer Dr Tarek Fahmy of Yale University who prepares the smart nanoparticles, Professors David Baker and Gavin Giovannoni who lead preclinical and clinical trials in MS at Queen Mary’s University of London, and Dr Anna Williams who works on progressive MS at the University of Edinburgh.

This GMSI project exploits nanotechnology to harness the power of Leukaemia Inhibitory Factor (LIF), a potent stem cell cytokine able to both oppose inflammatory immunity and promote myelin repair - both highly relevant to treatment of MS.

Source: CambridgeNewsUK Copyright © 2014 Local World (02/10/14)