INSIGHT: Highlighting the Latest Advances in MS

The Lancet Neurology, a scientific journal, highlighted the exciting progress we have made in multiple sclerosis (MS) over the last year. Advances were summarized into three key themes: (1) a new framework to better describe MS that considers the underlying processes and their contribution over time, (2) finding biomarkers to better manage and predict the course of MS, and (3) exploring ways to identify and treat MS earlier.

Summary of Recent Research Advances:

  1. A New Framework to Describe Multiple SclerosisAn international group of MS experts proposed a new framework to describe MS more as a continuous disease process instead of using the current descriptors (e.g. relapsing-remitting MS, secondary progressive MS, primary progressive MS). The new framework is based on the underlying biological disease processes:
  • Injury processes such as inflammation, demyelination, damage, and loss of nerve fibres
  • Compensating processes such as repair, regeneration, and protection of nerve fibres

We now understand that both biological processes can be present at the start of the disease and their contributions change over time. This new framework aims to improve MS care and support the development of targeted treatments. Before a new framework is used, more research is needed to fill in current knowledge gaps. Read more here.

  1. Identification of New Biomarkers for MS: Biomarkers are biological factors found in the body that can help in the detection and management of diseases. We highlight two recent advances that are moving us toward being able to better predict disease severity and progression in MS. 
  • Identifying Blood-based Biomarkers Associated with Disease Progression:  Researchers examined the use of blood-based biomarkers, neurofilament light chain (NfL) and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), in disease monitoring. They found that both biomarkers can provide information about the disease course and GFAP may be useful in predicting future risk of progression. There is ongoing research to validate these biomarkers for use in clinical care.  Read more here.
  • First Genetic Factor Associated with Disease Severity: While over 200 genetic variants are known to be associated with the risk of developing MS, a recent study identified a new genetic variant linked to worse health outcomes in MS. This newly identified genetic variant (called rs10191329) increases the risk of disability progression by almost 4 years as measured by shorter time to EDSS 6.0. There is ongoing research to confirm how this genetic variant affects disease severity. Read more here.
  1. Impact of Early Identification and Early Treatment: Researchers investigated whether early treatment can prevent or delay onset of MS in high-risk groups. Results from two clinical trials showed that early treatment with disease-modifying therapies (either dimethyl fumarate or teriflunomide) reduced the risk of MS symptoms and onset compared to those taking a placebo (no active drug) in people who are at-high risk of MS with radiologically isolated syndrome (RIS). These studies provide the first evidence that early intervention can in fact prevent or delay onset of MS. Read more here.

Learn more about how MS Canada is accelerating research for a world free of MS and our research activities over the past year – Read more here.


Article published in The Lancet Neurology on January 2024 - Multiple sclerosis in 2023: beyond the boundaries – here

Other resources:

  • Proposal for a New Framework to Describe Multiple Sclerosis - here
  • Identifying Blood-based Markers Associated with Disease Progression in MShere
  • Researchers Uncover First Genetic Factor Associated with Disease Severity in Multiple Sclerosishere
  • Early Treatment Extends Time to First Multiple Sclerosis Symptom in People with Radiologically Isolated Syndromehere
  • Accelerating Research for a World Free of Multiple Sclerosishere