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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Autumn 18

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This study is exciting

This study is exciting in that not only has it identified a possible medication that might be beneficial for people with progressive forms of MS, but it has also demonstrated a thorough and systematic approach that could be used to screen other large panels of medications and identify drugs that could be repurposed for progressive MS. 3D printing to help MS drug discovery A group of North American scientists has used 3D printing to create a model that could be used to aid MS drug discovery. 3D printed ‘axons’ have similar physical and mechanical properties to the axons in the human brain. The scientists can change the properties of the artificial axons, so they can test and discover different aspects of myelination and mimic both healthy and damaged axons. In an article published in the journal ‘Nature’, it is reported that the 3D printed axons have the potential to help scientists make fundamental discoveries about the myelination process, as well as assist with cheaply and rapidly screening large panels of potential drugs before going into human trials. This is exciting technology which continues to evolve and improve. Stem cells, regeneration and repair in MS Most cells in the body carry out very specific roles and are called specialised cells. Stem cells are different as they have two unique features: the ability to make many copies of themselves (self-renewal) and the ability to produce specialised cells (differentiation). Stem cell therapy is any treatment that uses or targets stem cells. This is usually to help replace or repair damaged cells or tissues but can also be used to prevent damage from happening in the first place. Researchers believe that stem cells may one day be used to treat MS, but research into stem cells is still at the very early stages and there are currently no approved stem cell therapies for MS. New guidelines, written by international MS researchers and MS societies from around the world, spell out hope for the future of MS stem cell research and debunk myths about stem cell clinics which claim to cure MS. • Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (AHSCT) Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are a type of adult stem cell made in the bone marrow, which can produce the different cells found in the blood. Although only trialled in a small number of people so far, AHSCT has shown some success, particularly in aggressive forms of MS. • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are found in many parts of the body and are usually taken from bone marrow, skin and fat tissue. They can produce many different types of cells, including muscle and cartilage, and there is some evidence to suggest they might help promote remyelination and have a positive effect on the immune system. Several pilot or small-scale studies have investigated the safety of isolating, growing and re-injecting someone’s own MSCs. These studies have highlighted a number of minor side-effects and have revealed some promising early results. More studies are underway, including one funded by MSIF. Want to access research articles? Here are the places you can access up to date research articles relating to multiple sclerosis: • Vitality – Our monthly research focussed e-newsletter • Our website – • Right here as part of your Member magazine Bulletin. It includes great research articles and information every quarter. Just email if you would like any further information. 10 | MSWA BULLETIN AUTUMN 2018

BRAIN HEALTH AND MS SARAH LORRIMAR, MSWA COORDINATOR OF HEALTH EDUCATION AND PEER SUPPORT The brain can compensate for changes caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions. It does this by adapting healthy areas of the brain to take on new functions. The capacity for the brain to do this is referred to as brain health or neurological reserve. People living with MS may experience some form of change in cognitive function, however these changes are often mild and can be referred to as a hidden symptom. A small percentage of people with MS will experience significant changes in their thinking abilities. Taking steps to maximise brain health can help manage these changes, protecting against cognitive decline, and helping to maintain a good quality of life. Whatever your MS diagnosis, the following strategies can be incorporated into your daily life and can contribute to improving lifelong brain health. Get Regular Sleep Sleep helps restore the brain by flushing out toxins that build up during waking hours. Sleep is also helpful for storing our memories. A good goal is to aim for seven to eight hours sleep per night. Keep Active Whatever is good for your heart is good for your brain! Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain which helps with growth of brain cells. THE BENEFITS OF PEER SUPPORT Peer support is the help and support which people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) can provide one another. Having an opportunity to connect and support others, who you can identify with and share common concerns, has shown to improve people’s ability to cope with the challenges of living with MS. The unique benefit of peer support is that you can access the perspectives and experiences of others who have ‘been there’ and understand where you are coming from. Support groups provide an opportunity to understand your diagnosis better and make positive changes to manage symptoms and live well with MS. By providing a safe and understanding space, support groups encourage you to communicate openly about your experiences. Having peers around you who understand what you are talking about, and have likely been through something similar, allows you to connect with others and create new friendships! By reducing feelings of isolation, support groups often empower people to be proactive in improving their health and wellbeing. Challenge Your Brain Your brain is a muscle, it needs exercise too! Challenging the brain helps strengthen and build new brain cells. Learn something new every day, pick up a book, take up a hobby, or research something you’re interested in. Rest and Relax Fatigue can affect the way we think. When we are more alert, we are able to manage our day to day lives better. Regular rest and relaxation can help you achieve a clearer mind. Socialise Social activities that involve mental and physical stimulation, like singing or team sports, benefit our brain health. Catch up with family or friends or get to know your neighbours to stimulate your brain! Eat Well A balanced diet benefits overall health and helps your brain function properly. Enjoy a variety of foods and cut back on processed foods and saturated fats. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids are also recommended. Follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines or liaise with your GP/Dietitian. MSWA has developed some ‘postcards’ for our Members which feature information on keeping your brain healthy. If you would like a copy, or for any other queries, please contact MSWA on 9365 4888. They are also a great source of new information on things such treatment and research updates. At MSWA, there are a variety of face-to-face peer support groups available. This includes groups for people living with MS, carers and friends and family. There is also a private online support group for people who are deemed low support and/or newly diagnosed. It is also possible to access a peer volunteer which involves one-on-one communication via phone or email. As well as individual support, our peer volunteers can be involved in sharing their story of MS at sessions such as the newly diagnosed ‘meet and greet’. Our peer volunteers are provided with training and support. If you would like to get involved, either by joining a new or existing support group or becoming a peer support volunteer, please contact Sarah Lorrimar, Coordinator of Health Education and Peer Support on 9365 4858 or MSWA BULLETIN AUTUMN 2018 | 11