February 24, 2017

Longer Lives, an MS Breakthrough and Other Health Advances

By Grace Carr
Scientists Freeze Multiple Sclerosis Progression

A new multiple sclerosis treatment seems to stop the progression of the disease in nearly half of patients. A study found that 46% of patients who underwent the treatment did not suffer a worsening of their condition for 5 years. The treatment could give hope to the estimated 100,000 people in the UK affected by MS, for which there is currently no cure. The treatment – autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) – was given to patients with advanced MS who failed to respond to other medications. Similar approaches have been trialed on people with certain cancers, with encouraging early results. The treatment, however, involving aggressive chemotherapy, still carries “significant risks.” The treatment worked for 1/3 of patients with severe, progressive MS. 

Life Expectancy to Rise Globally through 2030

Studies predict that in 2030 South Korean women will be the first in the world to have an average life expectancy above 90 and that the gap between men and women will start to close in most countries. Japan currently has the highest life expectancy for women, but researchers predict South Korea and France will soon do even better. Men have traditionally had unhealthier lifestyles and therefore shorter life expectancies, but as lifestyles become more similar, the gap closes. The study takes account of different factors like smoking rates, medical advances and obesity patterns. 

Scientists Crack A 50-Year-Old Mystery About The Measles Vaccine

Vaccines may be even  more beneficial than previously thought. When the measles vaccine came out, scientists noticed that childhood deaths from all infectious diseases plummeted – deaths from pneumonia and even diarrhea, for example, were cut by half. Scientists observed the same phenomenon when the vaccine reached developing countries. Previously, it was unknown why children cease dying at high rates from infections following introduction of the measles vaccine. Scientists may have  unraveled the mystery: they hypothesize that measles predisposes children to all other infectious diseases by suppressing the immune system for a number of years. Measles does this by causing the body to “forget” diseases it has already faced and formed antibodies to fight, forcing the body to build up those defenses again from scratch. Another reason to celebrate the spread of the measles vaccine!