Multiple sclerosis: Prospects and promise

Ann Neurol. 2013 Sep;74(3):317-27. doi: 10.1002/ana.24009.


We have entered a golden era in multiple sclerosis (MS) research. Two decades ago, our understanding of the disease was largely descriptive and there were no approved therapies to modify the natural history of MS. Today, delineation of immune pathways relevant to MS have been clarified; a comprehensive map of genes that influence risk compiled; clues to environmental triggers identified; noninvasive in vivo monitoring of the MS disease process has been revolutionized by high-field MRI; and many effective therapies for the early, relapsing, component of MS now exist. However, major challenges remain. We still have no useful treatment for progressive MS (the holy grail of MS research), no means to repair injured axons or protect neurons, and extremely limited evidence to guide treatment decisions. Recent advances have set in place a foundation for development of increasingly selective immunotherapy for patients; application of genetic and genomic discoveries to improve therapeutic options; development of remyelination or neuroprotection therapies for progressive MS; and integrating clinical, imaging and genomic data for personalized medicine. MS has now advanced from the backwaters of autoimmune disease research to the front-line, and definitive answers, including cures, are now realistic goals for the next decade. Many of the breakthrough discoveries in MS have also resulted from meaningful interactions across disciplines, and especially from translational and basic scientists working closely with clinicians, highlighting that the clinical value of discoveries are most often revealed when ideas developed in the laboratory are tested at the bedside.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / genetics
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology


  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Immunosuppressive Agents