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HEAT. Most of us who live with multiple sclerosis seem to be sensitive to how hot we get. As we have now reached one of the northern hemisphere’s hottest months of the year, it is goo d to see that new research is shedding some light on why MS symptoms get worse when we get hot.
Of course, these are early days but a team of researchers from Queen Mary University London is trying to understand why symptoms get worse in hot weather, but also when our bodies heat up from exercise or even just excitement.
The movement of sodium into nerves is partially responsible but the new research shows an existing drug can partially block this movement into the optic nerves of rats. Ok, just optic nerves in rats, so far, but we all have to start somewhere, right?
The UK’s MS Society reports:
Lead researcher Dr Mark Baker has already shown that temperature effects happen in healthy nerves partly because heat speeds up the movement of sodium into nerves. The nerve then has to work harder to get rid of it and it becomes more difficult to transmit messages.
Mark, and his MS Society-funded PhD student Lavinia Austerschmidt, teamed up with other scientists and doctors to find out how to reduce this movement.
They have shown a drug called bumetanide can partially stop it happening in rats. It does this by blocking a certain transporter which helps move sodium into nerves.
“The ultimate goal of our research is to discover useful drug effects that can help people feel better” says Mark. But as bumetanide was created to work in the kidneys, when people take the drug, it can’t get from the blood into the brain.
“We need people to develop a drug that affects sodium movement but can get into the brain” Lavinia adds, “I wish I could make my own drug, but I’m not a chemist.”
Lavinia says “this is a very robust result, but it’s only one part of the story. We’re doing experiments on whole nerves, so there’s lots of things happening at once. We have to look at the data from all angles.”
“This new paper shows there is at least one more pathway into the nerve for sodium” says Mark. “It is clear now that other routes, yet to be fully identified, are working in parallel. We didn’t know that before”.
Lavinia is relieved the easing of lockdown meant she could get back to the lab. She’s keen to now see what happens if a nerve has lost its myelin. She says “we’ve seen a big effect in healthy nerves so we’d expect to see it in demyelinated nerves too”.
In MS, inflammation around the nerve might mean there isn’t enough energy to get rid of the sodium properly, causing even more problems for the nerve. Lavinia says this shows “it’s not just demyelination causing havoc in the optic nerve. Sodium movement may be another way to explain some of what’s going on”.
MS Society’s assistant director of research, Dr Emma Gray, said: “Many people with MS tell us their symptoms get worse in the heat. We know changes in temperature can affect the way our nerves function. The research is still at an early stage, but Mark and Lavinia’s results could be a first step to finding treatments that can help with the effects of heat sensitivity.”
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Please note that being born in the UK, all my posts, are written using British English spelling.
Centre not center (except in names, Centers of Disease Control) Colour not color Diarrhoea not diarrhea Haematology not hematology Haematopoietic not hematopoietic
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Ian is not a doctor, so cannot and does not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely his own unless otherwise stated.