Islamabad - Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease that can damage key parts of the central nervous system and may cause a host of debilitating symptoms. Many people associate MS with the gradual loss of motor function and sensation, but this does not complete the picture of this complex condition.

A recent study asserts that MS can actually alter the way people with the disease perceive and process social situations. And it may even shed some light on why some people with MS may easily misread a situation and react differently than expected.

MS disease activity can trigger changes in the brain’s white matter, which controls many higher brain functions. These changes can lead to deficiencies in both theory of mind (ToM) and facial emotion recognition, which are significant when compared with people who don’t have MS.

ToM is the ability to attribute mental states such as intentions and beliefs to oneself and others, and to understand that these states may be different than one’s own. For example, someone might be talking, explaining a situation with no malicious intent, but a person with MS could misinterpret the facial expressions of the person speaking and perceive them as angry.

This is not the first study to look into ToM and MS. Social cognition and MS have been studied for years, and the research points to significant differences between people with MS and control groups

Social cognitive deficits are often overlooked but offer significant opportunities to improve social functioning and quality of life. Human connectivity is critical for those living with MS but cognitive issues can interfere.

According to the National MS Society, cognitive dysfunction could be present in over 60 per cent of people with MS and has been reported at all stages and in all subtypes of the disease.

While the deficits in ToM and facial emotion recognition among those with MS were not as severe as those identified in people with schizophrenia or in other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, the differences were significant.

Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science, explained to Healthline that “brain training works by targeting different parts of the brain but with one goal: faster and more accurate brain processing, leading to better memory and problem solving.”

Mahncke explained the importance of modern thinking and understanding that “a brain is plastic and has the ability to rewire itself, that the brain is not like a computer chip that wears out.” Meanwhile, a new study, however, finds that the treatment could be more harmful than helpful if cardiac stem cells are involved.

Researchers found that using patients’ own cardiac stem cells to repair damaged heart tissue may not only be ineffective, but that the stem cells may also develop inflammatory properties that cause further heart damage.

Study leader Prof Jonathan Leor, of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and colleagues recently reported their findings.

Prof Leor and colleagues came to their findings by isolating stem cells derived from the cardiac tissue of mice that had left ventricular dysfunction caused by a heart attack.

The team then injected the stem cells back into the hearts of the mice and assessed how they affected heart remodelling and function, compared with a saline solution.

Instead of repairing the rodents’ damaged heart tissue, the researchers found that the transplanted stem cells developed inflammatory properties, which may increase heart damage.

“We found that, contrary to popular belief, tissue stem cells derived from sick hearts do not contribute to heart healing after injury,” explains Prof. Leor.

“Furthermore, we found that these cells are affected by the inflammatory environment and develop inflammatory properties. The affected stem cells may even exacerbate damage to the already diseased heart muscle.”

An increasing number of end-stage heart failure patients are turning to stem cell therapy as a “last resort,” but the researchers believe that the treatment should be approached with caution.

“Our findings suggest that stem cells, like any drug, can have adverse effects. We concluded that stem cells used in cardiac therapy should be drawn from healthy donors or be better genetically engineered for the patient.”