It is not every day that the lunch-time BBC news makes me sit up and take special notice. But, today was different and it was not the phrase “Multiple Sclerosis” that caught my attention. It was the phrase “Brain Damage” which has been haunting me for the past few months. The promise that Ocrelizumab might fight this was intriguing.
Immune system causes brain damage, so Ocrelizumab fights the immune system
The drug Ocrelizumab which is currently in phase III trials and touted to reduce the effects of PPMS (Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis) by up to 25% is making news headlines. Because the drug is now in phase III trials, it could be up for licensing next year, in 2017.
The news reporter did suggest that while the drug may be licenced next year, it may not be affordable.
Any word of potential benefit to multiple sclerosis patients is good news. I was upset; the news bulletin reported on the potential brain damage caused by multiple sclerosis as if it were common knowledge. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over twenty years ago, and it is only in the past two or three years that I have become aware of the cranial significance of this autoimmune disease.
Am I just stupid or is the brain damage more advanced than I gave it credit for.
Undoubtedly, I am not as mentally sharp as I used to be. Yes, I should be excited about the news of Ocrelizumab but, I am not. Why? Because it does not treat the disease, it treats one of the symptoms.
- Ocrelizumab treats symptom not disease
- Pharmaceutical companies profit
If Ocrelizumab prevents the immune system from attacking the myelin sheath, then one might assume it is halting the disease. I would disagree. It is halting the disease action but, probably at the expense of compromising the immune system in other key areas.
The immune system is an incredibly powerful system, and is quite definitely life-saving when it works. But, when it malfunctions, it can be life-threatening!
The white blood cells are the body’s defence mechanism. The white blood cells are the crack troops in the war against infection.
Yes, white blood cells are killers and when they are killing the right organisms, they are amazing, life-preserving processes in humans. But, when the myelin cells are the target of the defensive troops, human health can deteriorate rapidly.
When the myelin surrounding the nerve fibres breaks down, neural activity is disrupted. This can give rise to memory lapses, loss of concentration and pain.
Myelin can repair, when the multiple sclerosis disease activity stops, as it does during periods of remission. However, if the myelin loss is severe, the underlying nerve dies and the brain damage is permanent.
Recovering from brain damage
MS is damaging your brain, but the brain is resilient. It will find new neural pathways to replace those damaged by multiple sclerosis. To expedite this recovery, it is essential that the brain is exercised.
This brain recovery requires that you stretch your mind. By making the brain work, you will force it to find new ways to accomplish the tasks you set it.
The best way to challenge your mind, is to learn a new skill. Any new skill will causes the brain to establish new neural connections improving the overall health of your mind.
It does not matter what your new skill is. It is not the skill that is important, it is the learning process, itself. The learning process forces the brain to expand into the unused area of brain known as neural reserve.
I have been trying to learn to speak Spanish. It is a slow process and despite my tutor claiming that I am 45% fluent in the language. I could not hold even the most basic conversation.
But, it is a great success. I am not learning to speak Spanish very well, but my thinking is improving. My cognitive abilities are responding to the mental exercise that learning a language is providing.
I think the point I am trying to make is that you can exercise your brain and doing so will improve your thinking abilities.
Yes, I probably am obsessing about this rather a lot. But our brain is very important, probably a lot more important than most of us consider. Our brain is who we are; it is our character, our personality and our life.
Without a fully functioning brain, it doesn’t matter how healthy our heart is, or how clean our lungs are. Without a brain we are nothing.
If nothing else, it is thought-provoking and thinking is good. We are all learning, all of the time, even if we are not aware of it.
Fighting the Immune System
To return to the heading of this article, Our immune system is attacking our brain, so Ocrelizumab fights the immune system.
This is great, as far as it goes. But our immune system is still our first, and possibly last, defence against potentially fatal disease.
Do we really want to weaken that defence when it may be the only chance we have? I quess we need to strike a very fine balance.