Hope For MS

Rich Elliott is having fun with his daughter. But it's hard work just staying on his feet.

"It's difficult to walk and stay upright without falling," Elliott says.

At 36, Elliott is fighting a daily battle with MS

"…dexterity, speech is slurred sometimes…" he says.

Elliott is now part of a small group of people in the United States testing a new drug. At this point, he'd settle for anything that keeps the debilitating symptoms from getting worse.

"I'd know that this is as bad as it's gonna get, and I could handle that," Elliott says.

Researchers say current MS therapies affect more than just the bad cells. They can also harm good cells that protect the body's nervous system.

"It's like having a sledge hammer to kill a fly," says Arthur Vandenbark, Ph.D., Neurologist at O.H.S.U./V.A. Medical Center in Portland, Ore.

Dr. Vandenbark and his team designed RTL-1000 to zero-in on the bad cells that cause MS. It works by binding to those cells' receptors and inactivating them. Pictures from an animal study show MS before RTL and after. The MS cells simply disappear.

"I think we can potentially reduce the symptoms a lot, maybe completely, in early stage patients," Dr. Vandenbark says.

Researchers hope RTL will reverse damage already caused by MS, even for patients whose disease has progressed. For Elliott, it's hard to imagine.

"If I could walk on my own again without assistance, have a normal day, be able to use your fingers, to get it back would be incredible," Elliott says.

He's hopeful the new medication could hold the key.

If RTL-1000 is proven effective in the fight against MS, scientists hope this kind of therapy may also be used to treat other auto-immune diseases, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. MS is about three-times more likely to occur in women than in men.


Arthur Vandenbark, M.D.

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