The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a research team at the George Washington University (GW) $7.8 million to establish a rare disease network for myasthenia gravis. The network, which will be part of 25 established NIH Rare Diseases Clinical Research Networks, will include basic and clinical investigators, patient advocacy groups and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies working together to enhance therapeutic development for this rare disease. The team is led by former and current MGFA Medical and Scientific Advisory (MSAB) Chairs, Henry Kaminski, MD and Linda Kusner, PhD, and the steering committee members are all leaders of the MGFA MSAB as well.
The grant will fund research into the underlying pathophysiology of the disease, provide fellowships in MG for young investigators, and fund pilot grants. This funding will also ensure that the serum bank created by the MGFA’s transformative grant will continue.
MGFA is proud to represent the MG Community as a member of MG Net, and has committed $250,000 of funding ($50,000 for each year) to support the project. This commitment from MGFA, as well as that of Illinois-based Conquer MG, was instrumental in demonstrating the support of the MG Community for the project—an essential component of the criteria for funding established by the NIH. Press release available here.
The study, "Metformin attenuates autoimmune disease of the neuromotor system in animal models of myasthenia gravis", published by International Immunopharmacology, used a mouse model to investigate the therapeutic potential of metformin on autoimmune myasthenia gravis. Researchers showed that oral administration of metformin diminished the onset, reduced clinical severity and led to a reduction in mortality in experimental autoimmune myasthenia gravis rats.
Ra Pharmaceuticals announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Orphan Drug Designation to zilucoplan for the treatment of myasthenia gravis. Ra Pharma is developing zilucoplan, a self-administered macrocyclic peptide inhibitor of complement component 5 (C5), for the treatment of generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG) and other rare, tissue-based complement-mediated diseases.
"Beyond the antibodies: serum metabolimic profiling of myasthenia gravis", published by Metabolomics, uses a profiling approach as a potential strategy for identifying biomarkers unique to myasthenia gravis. Comparisons between patients with MG vs. HC (healthy controls), and RA (rheumatoid arthritis) vs. HC were made using univariate and multivariate statistics.
"Heterogeneity and shifts in distribution of muscle weakness in myasthenia gravis", published by Neuromuscular Disorders, analyzes the distribution of muscle weakness in 225 AChR MG patients over time. The study identified phenotypes: ocular, bulbar, neck/ limbs/ respiratory, or a combination. MG patients frequently shift between phenotypes. These variations found in AChR MG suggest that other factors aside from the ACHR antibody mediated immune response are important in determining the disease expression of MG.
Patients who initially showed greater fluctuations in the electric signal at the neuromuscular junction and lower electrical signals (reduced by 20% or more) were more frequently positive for autoantibodies and had generalized disease. These patients were also classified as having more severe disease, having higher quantitative (above 10.5) myasthenia gravis score (QMGS) at baseline, compared to patients with better electrophysiological test results. See here for the full article from the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, "Baseline Decrement in Patients with Mild Myasthenia Gravis Predicts Immunomodulation Treatment".
Several states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical and/or recreational use. Can marijuana or chemicals extracted or based upon components of marijuana help people with MG? Let’s consider what is currently known about medical benefits of marijuana. In researching this topic, members of the MGFA Medical and Scientific Advisory Board (MSAB), reviewed the scientific literature and the information available from reputable sources such as the National Institutes of Health, the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association and the American Medical Association. For more detail and our full statement, see here
The study, "Nocebo effect in myasthenia gravis: systematic review and meta-analysis of placebo-controlled clinical trials", published in the journal Acta Neurologia Belgica, is a meta-analysis of adverse events experienced by patients with myasthenia gravis following placebo treatment. The study demonstrates a low nocebo dropout rate in MG comapted to central nervous system disorders.
While many MG patients were affected by fatigue, sleepiness, depression and anxiety, the study, "Impact of autoimmune comorbidity on fatigue, slepiness and mood in myasthenia gravis", does not suggest that coexisting autoimmune diseases substantially contribute to the magnitude of these cumbersome comorbid symptoms. However, the higher frequency of steroid treatment may have counterbalanced the effects of the autoimmune comorbidity.
Results of the Phase 2 study were presented at the 2019 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in May:
A group of scientists in Austria conducted a study to determine the efficacy of rituximab in treating myasthenia gravis. The study, titled, “High efficacy of rituximab for myasthenia gravis: a comprehensive nationwide study in Austria” looked at 56 patients and studied their response to rituximab, finding that 26.4% of the patients studied were in remission after three months of treatment. In this retrospective study on RTX for MG, the largest to date, RTX appeared safe, efficacious and fast acting. Benefit from RTX was greatest in MuSK ab + MG.