Newswise — Middleton, Wis., February 22, 2021 – The majority of patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) eventually advance to a progressive stage of disease, characterized by gradual, relentless accumulation of neurological disability.  Individuals with progressive MS (pMS) are less likely to respond to disease modifying therapies used in the treatment of RRMS, particularly if a significant amount of time has elapsed since they last experienced a clinical relapse or developed an acutely inflamed white matter lesion. The molecular and cellular basis underlying the transition to pMS is poorly understood. 

Dr. Benjamin Segal, chair and professor of Neurology at The Ohio State University and Director of The Neuroscience Research Institute as well as Co-Director of The Neurological Institute, will discuss the evolution of the neuroinflammatory response over the clinical course of multiple sclerosis, during his keynote Kenneth P. Johnson Memorial Lecture on the opening day of the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2021.

Dr. Segal notes that while some pathological hallmarks of pMS overlap with those of RRMS, there are also distinctive features, including slowly expanding (“smoldering”) white matter lesions and diffuse microglial activation in the normal appearing white matter. Chronological age is the strongest predictor of whether an individual with MS has a progressive as opposed to a relapsing remitting course. This suggests that pathological changes associated with secondary pMS arise from an interaction between CNS autoimmunity and normal age-related changes in immune function (immunosenesence and inflammaging). 

Dr. Segal will discuss potential mechanisms by which the aging immune system might reshape the CNS autoimmune response in individuals with MS to foster the pathological and clinical signatures of progressive disease. “A deeper understanding of the role of inflammaging and immunosenesence in autoimmune demyelinating disease could elucidate novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets for the management of pMS,” Dr. Segal said.

The late Kenneth P. Johnson, M.D., University of Maryland, led the effort to found ACTRIMS in 1995. The Memorial Lecture honors Johnson by providing an opportunity for ACTRIMS audiences to hear from prestigious clinicians or researchers selected for their knowledge, accomplishments and contributions related to MS.

ACTRIMS Forum brings together more than 1,000 researchers and clinicians annually to share developments in the rapidly changing field of MS. The 2021 Forum will be held virtually Feb. 25-27. Themed “The Spectrum of Multiple Sclerosis,” this CME-accredited meeting stands apart from many traditional medical meetings by offering a single track of scientific and clinical presentations in an interactive environment. To learn more about the Forum, visit the event website, https://forum.actrims.org/, and follow the event at #ACTRIMS on Twitter.

 # # #

About ACTRIMS Founded in 1995, Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) is a community of leaders from the United States and Canada who are dedicated to the treatment and research in MS and other demyelinating diseases. ACTRIMS focuses on knowledge dissemination, education, and collaboration among disciplines.