A life-changing treatment for the devastating autoimmune condition, multiple sclerosis (MS), may be on the horizon after signs of the disease completely disappeared from nine out of 10 patients treated with an experimental drug.
More than 900 volunteers with a common form of recurrent MS were given shots of ofatumumab, an drug designed to alter the immune system, over the course of about one-and-a-half years, on average.
Within the first year of treatment, patients were having fewer flare-ups and their blood work showed far fewer signs of inflammation.
By the second year of treatment, nearly 90 percent had no symptoms at all.
MS is not technically fatal, but there is no cure and for many people flare-ups get worse over time and can become debilitating.
The newly-released results of the University of California, San Francisco-led trial for Novartis's drug suggest that relief from the crippling pain of MS could be less than a year away, if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepts the company's application for approval.
A new drug called ofatumumab targets immune B cells, believed to trigger the attacks on nerve coatings that make the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis debilitating. In the second year of treatment with the new drug, 90% of patients had no relapses
More than 2.3 million people around the world live with MS, including nearly one million in the US.
Up until the last 20 years, nothing really stood in the way of the progression of the disease.
Now, there are a handful of treatments that can help reduce the number and severity of relapses, but many still need a cane, walker or other assistance to walk within 15 years of diagnosis.
The immune systems of people with MS go haywire, attacking the protective covering of nerves, called the myelin sheath.
Like the plastic the insulates wires so that nothing interrupts the flow of electrical signals through them, myelin ensures smooth, uninterrupted communication between the body and brain via nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
Attacks on this protective covering disrupt these signals, leading to pain and lost mobility.
The irregular activity of the immune system also seems to cause inflammation, further exacerbating the aches and nerve pain of MS.
Attacks from misguided immune cells damage the nerves, leaving scar tissues, or lesions, in their wake.
These lesions are a hallmark of the disease.
MS has three primary types: relapsing, primary progressive and secondary progressive.
Multiple sclerosis (known as MS) is a condition in which the immune system attacks the body and causes nerve damage to the brain and spinal cord.
It is an incurable, lifelong condition. Symptoms can be mild in some, and in others more extreme causing severe disability.
MS affects 2.3 million people worldwide - including around one million in the US, and 100,000 in the UK.
It is more than twice as common in women as it is in men. A person is usually diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.