A new drug, which researchers will soon begin testing in humans, could help doctors diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS) with greater accuracy — and identify the stage of its progression.
MS is an incurable disorder which currently affects the central nervous system. The symptoms can become debilitating, including muscle stiffness, spontaneous movements, and balance issues, among other issues.
While it is unknown how many people are living with MS, statistics from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke indicate that in the United States alone around 250,000–350,000 individuals have a diagnosis of this condition.
Because MS affects so many people in the U.S. and elsewhere and can lead to impairment and reduced quality of life, doctors still find it difficult to diagnose and determine the extent to which it has affected the nervous system.
But this condition could change soon, thanks to a new test drug developed by Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, OH, researchers.
Goal: Diagnosing MS’ unambiguously’
The team, co-led by Prof. Yanming Wang, developed a drug—”Myeliviz”— which can bind to myelin, the nerve-protecting coating that makes them function properly.
Myelin gets damaged in ms. As a result, the nerves also suffer some damage, and effectively stop functioning, contributing to the various symptoms of the disease.
Prof. Wang and his colleagues assume they will be able to use a PET scanner after administering Myeliviz to monitor the presence of the drug in the nerves and to reliably image the damage to the myelin and the nerves inside.
The researchers have now reported that they have obtained Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to launch human clinical trials and check Myeliviz’s efficacy as a method for diagnosing MS.
They also note that they have received funding— a grant of $1.7 million — from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support these future clinical trials.
“Myelin’s never been imaged explicitly before,” points out Prof. Wang. “Our approach is the first to do so and we believe this will provide an easier and more accurate diagnosis of MS,” he says.
“The goal is to allow clinicians to diagnose MS more unambiguously and to monitor the progression and repair of diseases.”– Co-principal investigator Dr. Robert Fox
‘Myeliviz could be the missing link’
The researchers clarify that they will intravenously deliver the medication— using an IV — and then do PET scans.
If the myelin has sustained any trauma, the team believes this will be reflected on the scan as dark spots because Myeliviz will only have been able to bind unevenly to the remaining myelin in this instance.
Recognizing this damage will help doctors recognize MS early on, as the disorder starts affecting the central nervous system until it causes noticeable symptoms, the team says.
Using the new drug could also allow doctors to determine the extent of the nervous system damage to the person and to administer more effective treatments.
“Myeliviz could be the missing link in finding a cure for MS and other myelin diseases by serving as a specific and quantitative imaging marker for early diagnosis and sensitive, quantitative assessment of novel therapies currently under development,” says Chunying Wu, Ph.D., who co-developed the drug.
The researchers also suggest that using Myeliviz and PET scans could replace MRI scans in the diagnosis of MS.
MRI scans are currently the go- to diagnostic tool, and they can indirectly image myelin. Yet, the team notes, these scans are not very useful to help doctors monitor the progression of the condition.
So experts are hoping the new approach will be useful, not just in diagnosing so tracking MS, but also more generally in promoting brain health.
So experts are hoping the new approach could be useful, not only in diagnosing so tracking MS, but also more generally in promoting brain health.
“[ Myeliviz] can provide improved ongoing brain health monitoring in general— and help doctors more accurately assess the effectiveness of treatments in numerous neurological diseases, such as epilepsy, stroke, neurodegeneration, tumor, and brain and spinal cord trauma,” commented Dr. Mykol Larvie, Director of Functional Neuroimaging at the Cleveland Clinic and Head of F.