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Neuromyelitis Optica Treatment & Research Program

Experts at the Neuromyelitis Optica Treatment and Research Program, part of NYU Langone’s Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center, provide treatment, counseling, and education for people with this condition and their families.

Neuromyelitis optica, also known as neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), is an autoimmune condition that causes the body to harm otherwise healthy tissue. Damage is caused by one of two antibodies that are found in the blood of people with NMOSD: aquaporin-4 antibody, also known as NMO antibody, or myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG). NMO and MOG antibodies damage the optic nerves, spinal cord, and sometimes the brain.

NMOSD is a rare disorder, affecting approximately 16,000 people in the United States. Our doctors provide treatment for people with all forms of NMOSD, including MOG antibody syndromes.

NMOSD and MOG antibody syndromes are often mistaken for multiple sclerosis (MS), a more common central nervous system autoimmune disorder that has similar symptoms. Standard MS treatments can worsen NMOSD and MOG antibody syndromes, so accurate diagnosis is very important. If proper treatment is started soon after symptoms onset, prolonged remission that stops the disease from progressing is possible.

The Neuromyelitis Optica Treatment and Research Program is led by Ilya Kister, MD, who has extensive experience treating patients with NMOSD and is a leader in research into the condition.

Diagnosing NMOSD

Diagnosing NMOSD starts with a detailed history of the person’s symptoms. During an NMOSD attack, or relapse, people with the condition might experience eye pain; vision loss; numbness, weakness, or paralysis in the arms and legs; and loss of bladder and bowel control.

A neurological examination is performed to determine whether relapse has occurred. If NMOSD relapse is suspected, an MRI scan of the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord might be performed to look for the hallmark lesions of the disease.

Treatment for NMOSD

Care for people with NMOSD and MOG syndromes is provided by our dedicated team, which includes neurologists, neuro-ophthalmologists, a neuro-urologist, nurse coordinators, social workers, occupational therapists, and psychologists.

The key to preventing disability in NMOSD and MOG syndromes is in preventing relapses, which is best achieved through new biologic therapies, also known as immunotherapies. These include rituximab (Rituxan®), tocilizumab (Actemra®), and eculizumab (Soliris®). We also use traditional oral immunosuppressant drugs such as azathioprine (Imuran®), mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept®), or a combination of therapies, as well as intravenous immunoglobulin infusions.

During relapse, we prescribe intravenous steroids to help speed recovery. This is often combined with plasmapheresis, which is a way to remove disease-triggering antibodies from the blood.

People with NMOSD may experience symptoms caused by damage to the nervous tissue. A variety of medications, as well as approaches such as acupuncture and physical therapy, are available to alleviate common symptoms of NMOSD.

Treatment is provided at the infusion centers at NYU Langone Orthopedic Center, NYU Langone Ambulatory Care Center East 38th Street, and other NYU Langone-affiliated infusion sites. For relapses requiring inpatient care, specialized care is provided at Tisch Hospital. Expert inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation therapy is available at Rusk Rehabilitation.

Clinical Research in NMOSD

NYU Langone doctors are among the leaders in clinical research into better treatments for this rare disorder, and have published widely on the subject of NMOSD.

Our patients can contribute to research into NMOSD through clinical trials. We are currently participating in PREVENT, a research study into a promising new treatment for NMOSD called eculizumab (Soliris®), which has recently reported a 94 percent reduction in relapses. We also participate in the CIRCLES Biorepository, a national effort to store and catalog medical samples from people with the condition and make them available to qualified researchers worldwide.

To learn more about our research program, please email Zoe Rimler at zoe.rimler@nyulangone.org or Allyson Reid at allyson.reid@nyulangone.org.

Neuromyelitis Optica Patient Day

The MS Comprehensive Care Center hosts an annual NYU Langone Health Neuromyelitis Optica Patient Day. For details on our next event, please email Zoe Rimler at zoe.rimler@nyulangone.org or Allyson Reid at allyson.reid@nyulangone.org.

Contact Us

To make an appointment for an evaluation by one of our experts at the Neuromyelitis Optica Treatment and Research Program, please call 646-501-7500. To learn more about our research or for other questions, please contact us at nmo@nyulangone.org or email Zoe Rimler at zoe.rimler@nyulangone.org or Allyson Reid at allyson.reid@nyulangone.org.