Vagus Nerve research in Multiple Sclerosis

Vagus Nerve research in Multiple Sclerosis

Ok a new MS research blog brought to my attention by my dad yesterday. It has to do with the Vagus Nerve (pronounced like Las Vegas).

The vagus is a major nerve that runs throughout the body and controls crucial functions, like heart function and blood pressure, digestion, breathing and immune response. It also conveys sensory information to the brain about the current status of internal organs; a process termed interoception. The vagus nerve is a major therapeutic target for the emerging field of bioelectronic medicine, which uses neurostimulation to treat diseases.

Every time I read about new research in MS it always sounds so logical. The Vagus Nerve sounds like an important nerve to understand especially in MS. If this nerve is running throughout our whole body controlling so many functions, could it be something repaired? They had pre-clinical trials which were presented back in October 2017 at European and American Committee for Research and Treatment.

This preclinical study was designed to explore the effects of VNS on demyelination (myelin destruction) and on remyelination (myelin repair) in an animal model of multiple sclerosis. MS is an immune-mediated disorder that results in the destruction of the myelin sheath, the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates nerve fibers in the body, as well as the nerve fibers themselves. This causes neurodegeneration and a cascade of serious and debilitating symptoms, such as loss of vision, vertigo, difficulty walking, pain, and depression.

“Based on our previous studies that have shown vagus nerve stimulation activates protective neuro-immune reflexes that reduce inflammation, increase anti-inflammatory regulatory T-cell populations, and are neuroprotective in the central nervous system, we theorized that a bioelectronic medicine approach could be effective in treating MS,” said Yaakov Levine, PhD, Director of Applied Research at SetPoint Medical and senior investigator of the study. “Strikingly, a single dose of electrical stimulation not only reduced demyelination in this model, but also accelerated remyelination, which is a significant challenge in MS. Importantly, the study also demonstrated that VNS significantly reduced leakage of the blood-spinal cord barrier, which can prevent immune cell infiltration and further reduce disease progression.”

They have been working on the idea of a biomedical approach to treating many diseases, not just MS. Actually many biomedical devices have been used for years, like the pacemaker and defibrillators. I did look for information on clinical studies in humans for the Vagus Nerve stimulation specifically for MS but I couldn’t find anything. I think some of the research, is going towards Crohn’s and possibly Parkinson’s. I did find this link that’s explains why it makes such sense to treat the Vagus Nerve. I can hope for a cure and repair one day.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive immune-mediated disease that leads to myelin loss, axonal damage as well as some autonomic nervous system (ANS) in the disease course. Sweat disorders, urinary disorders, orthostatic hypotension, gastrointestinal symptoms and sexual dysfunction are typical ANS disorders that reduce the quality of life of MS patients. The precise etiology of MS is due to the body response to multiple risks and cellular events . However immune dysregulation arising from multifactorial disease processes via an association between genetic predispositions and environmental factors is the possible cause. As we postulated that the vagus nerve (VN) has a vital role in the ANS, we hypothesize that MS can lead to changes in structure and function of VN, resulting in decreased parasympathetic output, causing imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Conclusion: the vagus nerve can be tested by ultrasonography if autonomic activity are impaired in MS patients. Future directions: further in vivo and experimental trials should be conducted at the future, which will help in non-invasive diagnostic procedure and will open new consideration in pharmaceutical treatments for multiple sclerosis.

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