NIH, drug companies team up to target diseases
February 4th, 2014
02:41 PM ET

NIH, drug companies team up to target diseases

The National Institutes of Health is partnering with researchers from 10 rival drug companies and several nonprofit organizations to develop new and earlier treatments for diseases including diabetes, Alzheimer's and lupus.

The partnership, announced  Tuesday by NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, "could change the way scientific research is conducted."

"This is an unprecedented partnership, bringing the best and brightest scientists from the public and the private sectors together to discover the next generation of drug targets that are going to transform our ability to treat Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and that's just getting started,” Collins said.

The consortium will be known as the Accelerating Medicines Partnership.  It will focus at first on three disease groups: Alzheimer's, diabetes and autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.


Obese girls at risk of multiple sclerosis, study finds
January 30th, 2013
04:01 PM ET

Obese girls at risk of multiple sclerosis, study finds

Obese girls are at greater risk of developing multiple sclerosis or MS-like illness, according to a new study published Wednesday in the online journal Neurology.

Researchers looked at body mass index (BMI) data from more than 900,000 children from the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Children's health study. Seventy-five of those children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 18 were diagnosed with pediatric MS. More than 50% of them were overweight or obese, and the majority were girls.

According to the study, the MS risk was more than one and a half times higher for overweight girls, almost two times higher in moderately obese girls and almost four times higher in extremely obese girls.


Study: Shingles vaccine safe for patients on immune-suppressing drugs
July 3rd, 2012
07:39 PM ET

Study: Shingles vaccine safe for patients on immune-suppressing drugs

Shingles is a painful but common condition, affecting half of Americans by age 85. All adults aged 60 and older should receive a vaccine against it, according to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

But not everyone is eligible for this preventive measure. The vaccine is not recommended for people being treated with immune-suppressing drugs called “biologics,” which control how the body reacts to inflammation in a variety of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

Contrary to that advice, a new study found no increased risk for shingles among people with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or inflammatory bowel disease who have been treated with biologic medicines and receive the shingles vaccine.  The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kardashian has psoriasis – what is it?
July 25th, 2011
11:46 AM ET

Kardashian has psoriasis – what is it?

Kim Kardashian learned she has psoriasis in an episode of  “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” that aired Sunday.

Alarmed after finding red, itchy patches on her legs, Kardashian heads to the dermatologist.  Dr. Harold Lancer takes one look at the scaly rash and determines she has psoriasis, a common skin disease that causes skin to dry and form itchy spots.

The severity of psoriasis depends on the person – some people can be covered in these patches; other cases can be associated with arthritis.  For others, it’s just a small nuisance.

“I cannot have psoriasis,” Kardashian tells her dermatologist on the show. FULL POST

Filed under: Autoimmune disorder

FDA approves drug to treat lupus
March 10th, 2011
12:06 PM ET

FDA approves drug to treat lupus

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the drug Benlysta (belimumab) for the treatment of lupus, a chronic, potentially fatal autoimmune disease that affects about 5 million people across the world and, specifically, about 1.5 million Americans.

“This is a historic day for the millions of people with lupus and their families around the world who have waited more than 52 years for a treatment breakthrough for lupus," said Sandra C. Raymond, president and chief executive officer of the Lupus Foundation of America, in a statement. "Today marks the beginning of a new era of improved diagnosis, prevention, and treatment for the disease." FULL POST

September 28th, 2010
01:42 PM ET

Celiac disease cases doubled every 15 years in study group

The rate of celiac disease is growing and the onset of gluten intolerance can occur in older people, a study in the Annals of Medicine found.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, triggered by eating the protein gluten, which is found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye.  People with celiac disease cannot tolerate foods containing gluten and can experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage and other complications.

Researchers from the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and their colleagues found that the incidence of celiac disease has doubled every 15 years since 1974 in a population sample.


September 1st, 2010
02:00 PM ET

Differences found in individuals' immune systems

Humans’ immune systems are not as different from person to person as previously thought, according to scientists at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center reported Wednesday. The findings, the researchers say, could help pave the way for new drugs or immunotherapies to treat disease and infection in a host of patients, including organ transplant and skin graft recipients.

The crux of the research is the realization that of the tens of millions of T cell receptors that make up what’s known as the adaptive immune system, a small fraction of them are the same. It's called the variable region of our cells and it may not sound like a big deal but its practical applications are impressive.


August 12th, 2010
05:56 PM ET

Mickelson playing through pain of psoriatic arthritis

Phil Mickelson is beginning his quest for the 2010 PGA championship and he's playing with the pain of  psoriatic arthritis. He revealed his condition on Tuesday.

Mickelson says he experienced his first symptoms of the potentially debilitating disease five days before the U.S. Open began two months ago.

Dr. Christopher Ritchlin, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, says 80 percent of people who get psoriatic arthritis tend to have psoriasis first. He says patients usually have psoriasis for 10 years before also developing arthritis. Patients usually get psoriatic arthritis between the ages of 20 and 50 but children can get it too.


June 30th, 2010
01:08 PM ET

Researchers find gene linked to hair loss

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center believe they have found the genetic basis of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that attacks hair follicles and causes people to lose their hair.


September 28th, 2009
12:43 PM ET

Pushing ahead with multiple sclerosis therapies

By Georgiann Caruso
CNN Medical  Associate Producer

When I first heard about the possibility of a pill for multiple sclerosis (MS), I exlaimed, "No way!" As a person living with MS, I know that this would be a enormous advance for the MS community. The option of a pill instead of needles sounds incredible, making it so much easier for many people to stay on their therapies since currently they all involve needles. Delving into this further, I realized that several drugs in trials seemed to hold great promise, and they are not light years off.

But things aren't as simple as they first appeared.

First off, an explainer for those unfamiliar with the disease who might be curious, because chances are you know someone affected by MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines it as a "chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves." The cause isn't yet known and there is no cure. What happens is the myelin - the covering of the nerves - is destroyed by the immune system. The result is scar tissue; therefore nerve impulses, or messages, are slowed down leaving people with any number of symptoms including balance, speech, vision and memory problems as well as fatigue and heat sensitivity, to name a few.

Currently, there are five potential first-line disease-modifying therapies on the market, which became available starting in the early 1990s. Four are injectibles, and vary from being given once a day to once a week. Then a few years ago, the drug Tysabri was introduced, offering a new option for people with MS as it is given intravenously once every four weeks. The choice is up to the patient and the provider.

The drugs are intended to reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks and slow the progression of the disease. Depending on the therapy, clinical relapses can be reduced by between 1/3 and 2/3.

But the FDA has yet to approve a therapy that can be taken orally. That may soon change.

Scientists from the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) just wrapped up a meeting in Düsseldorf, Germany where they discussed this and other exciting developments in the MS community. So what does this mean for the more than 400,000 people in the U.S. - and the more than two million people worldwide –that have this debilitating neurological condition? And what does it mean for their families, friends and caregivers?

I posed that question to Dr. John Richert, Executive VP, Research & Clinical Programs of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, who emphasized that this is a very exciting time in the MS community.

He brought back news of the emerging trends discussed at the conference:

- The first oral symptom-management drug designed to improve nerve conduction, Fampridine, is already before the FDA for review. Fampridine has been shown to improve walking speed, but may also prove to help with other symptoms of the disease (which are less easy to quantify.) Expected to follow soon are the oral disease-modifying therapies Cladribine and Fingolimod. It's important to note though, these new drugs may well carry different risks than some of the currently available options. So while the method of taking them may be easier, they will not come without their own set of possible side effects and, as Richert suggests, there will be some unchartered territory as more people take the drugs.

-Therapies with infrequent dosing (such as once a year) are being studied.

-Stem cells hold promise for new MS treatments. Of particular interest are adult bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells. According to Richert, it's a bit too early yet to know whether this approach will prove safe and beneficial, or how exactly the therapy will work.

-Within the next year or two, most of the common genes that predispose people to develop the disease will be identified. This is important not only for prevention, but for treatment as well. However, further research is needed about environmental triggers to see how genes and the environment interact to cause MS.

MS is a complicated disease and varies among individuals. What is your realistic hope for the disease and research? Now or 5-10 years down the road? We'd like to hear from you.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.