On Sunday, September 27, 2015, Vermont will host its first-ever walk for Myasthenia Gravis to raise awareness about it and raise funds to support vital research. Join us for some fun at Oakledge Park at 9:00 a.m. to support this important cause.
What is Myasthenia Gravis?
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is a rare, autoimmune disorder that causes weakness and rapid fatigue of muscles in adults and children. MG patients may experience double vision, difficulty with chewing or swallowing, difficulty with speech, shortness of breath, or difficulty moving their arms and legs. Although MG was the first autoimmune disease to be described, it is rare enough that most people are not familiar with it.
How does MG impact lives?
The stakes are high for patients; muscle dysfunction due to MG can threaten livelihood, impair the ability to drive, affect the ability to care for children and other loved ones, impact school performance for pediatric patients, limit leisure activity, and in the most severe circumstances result in hospitalization.
MG is caused by confusion within a patient’s immune system. Instead of fighting off infection, the immune system produces antibodies against patients’ own muscle resulting in the symptom of weakness. Fortunately, for many patients, MG is treatable with medications that suppress immune system function. Medications have the potential to restore muscle function, although for some patients this improvement is incomplete. Many of these medications can cause undesirable side effects that can also impact a patient’s quality of life. Further scientific research is key to finding better treatments with fewer side effects.
Clinical Trials & Research Underway at the University of Vermont
We have an active MG clinic and MG research program through our neuromuscular neurology division at the University of Vermont. As a neuromuscular neurologist and clinical researcher, I see firsthand how this condition impacts the lives of patients. I also realize that there are gaps in knowledge and many ways we can improve care for MG patients. At UVM, my colleagues and I are running multiple clinical trials and other research projects to advance care for MG patients with a focus on improving quality of life. We are enrolling patients in two clinical trials of novel IV medications. We will be opening additional MG clinical trials in the next few months. I am also leading a multi-center effort to better measure and compare the side effects associated with the immunosuppressant medications already employed in the treatment of MG in hopes of improving patient quality of life. Other UVM-initiated research projects related to the care of MG are also under development.
If you are interested in MG clinical trials at UVM or have questions about MG, please contact me (Michael.Hehir@uvmhealth.org) or our neuromuscular research coordinator, Shannon Lucy (Shannon.Lucy@med.uvm.edu). To learn more about MG, please visit the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America website.
Michael Hehir, MD, is a neuromuscular specialist and assistant professor of Neurological Sciences at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America. Dr. Hehir has an active research program in myasthenia gravis with a focus on comparative efficacy treatment trials and quantification of side effects.