A wide range of clinical trials have been conducted with the aim of improving our understanding of MS and developing a cure.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder that severely disrupts the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Image Credit: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock.com
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease affecting the central nervous system. It is an autoimmune disorder that severely disrupts the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve fibers of the central nervous system.
Factors promoting multiple sclerosis
Research suggests that MS is caused by a genetic predisposition coupled with certain environmental factors; however, the exact cause of the condition remains a controversial topic.
It is thought that some cases of MS might be triggered following a viral or bacterial infection, in which the foreign agents have similar surface molecules to those of human brain cells. This is known as molecular mimicry and causes the immune cells of the body to start attacking the patient’s own cells.
In addition, damage to the blood-brain barrier, the layer which separates the brain and spinal cord from the immune system, allows immune cells to enter the CNS, thereby allowing access to the nerve cells, causing damage.
Researching and analyzing genetic susceptibility
A genetic predisposition towards the disease has been identified. However, scientists found that as there is only a 33% possibility of both monozygotic twins having MS, therefore there must be other reasons influencing the disease.
It is now widely accepted that there are several genetic mutations that can lead to MS.
Key factors regulating multiple sclerosis
Studies have indicated that people exposed to an optimum amount of sunlight each day are less susceptible to MS. This may be because Vitamin D, which is produced in response to sunlight, stimulates the immune system in such a manner that it reduces the chances of MS.
Though the exact cause is not known; however, smokers have shown a high inclination to developing MS.
Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) infection
It has been suggested that individuals who have been infected by EBV during their lifetime might have a higher risk of developing MS.
Multiple sclerosis - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology
Research on the plaques in the brain
MS is caused by inflammation in the brain that damages the protective myelin sheath. This process leaves plaques of dead neurons.
Changing paradigms in treating multiple sclerosis
Advances in treating the episodes of multiple sclerosis
MS is a disease that has no permanent cure; however recent developments mean that medicines are now available which can reduce the intensity and extent of recurring episodes of MS.
The most widely used treatment for MS is steroids. However, the American Academy of Neurology recently introduced a technique known as plasmapheresis for the treatment of MS.
Infographic depicting the difference between a healthy neuron and the damaged neuron of a multiple sclerosis sufferer. Image Credit: VectorMine / Shutterstock.com
Advances in treating the disease action and advancement
Major advances have been made in the last two decades in treating MS, however, there is still no cure for the condition. In an effort to improve the quality of life for patients with MS, and find a cure, scientists are focusing on three main areas:
- Preventing damage to the myelin sheath: researchers are currently developing drugs that can prevent damage to the myelin sheath. One of the ways they are doing this is by establishing the relationship between the gut microbiome and MS. They are also trying to develop methods to prevent immune cells from passing through the blood-brain barrier.
- Repairing the damage: trials are underway to develop a method by which the demyelination of neurons can be reversed.
- Establishing risk factors: Scientists are carrying out studies to establish how factors such as obesity, smoking and exercise may affect the condition.
Major research in treating multiple sclerosis
A clinical trial conducted at the University of Ottawa showed that treating the damaged immune system extensively with chemotherapeutic agents followed by stem cell therapy could stop MS. This approach was a major development for patients with MS and continues to be researched.