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MS is an unpredictable disease of the nervous system which manifests itself primarily through disorders in mobility. It is associated with a variety of other symptoms and complications. The most important fact about multiple sclerosis is its unpredictability and its uncertainty. There are very few certainties to be found anywhere in any aspect of this disease.
Multiple sclerosis is a demyelinating disease of the white matter of the central nervous system. Gray matter consists primarily of nerve cells. Axons (nerve fibers) are the connections between the cell body and the muscles, sensory organs, and primary organs such as the heart. These nerve cells are the communication system both within the central nervous system and between it and the rest of the body. Axons are sheathed in myelin, a white substance (hence the term "white matter") that insulates them and speeds transmission of impulses along the cell fibers. Electrical impulses move along the nerve fiber to the synapse (the connection point between cells) to the next nerve cell.
Exacerbations and remissions are difficult to define. An exacerbation is an acute appearance of new symptoms or worsening of old symptoms which lasts at least 24 hours, while a remission is a total or more often partial clearing of symptoms and signs which lasts more than 24 hours.
Symptoms may appear very rapidly, within minutes or days, or very slowly, over a period of weeks. They may be very transient and come and go rapidly. New symptoms may accumulate; old symptoms may reappear and/or intensify. Exacerbations, episodes of new disease activity, are not easy to diagnose with certainty. New symptoms may result from old, not new, areas of disease that were previously silent. Conversely, recurrence of old symptoms is not a sure indication of lack of exacerbation. Over time, the disease process may result in the formation of new plaques or the enlargement of existing ones. Exacerbations can be caused by heat, physical trauma, extreme fatigue, psychological stress, infections, or any other kind of stress. While all of these factors have been associated with exacerbations, there is little empirical data to support these associations.
There does seem to be a direct correlation between the degree of remission from an exacerbation and its duration. For example, 85% will usually improve spontaneously from an exacerbation that lasts one week, but only 7% will improve after an exacerbation lasting one to two years. Over time, a series of exacerbations and remissions may result in a gradual accumulation of irreversible changes and disability.
There are factors that may be predictive of the course of the disease. An earlier age at onset may mean a more benign course. If, at onset, symptoms are sensory, the course of the disease may be less severe, while motor symptoms (weakness or poor coordination) at onset may be predictive of greater disability. Again, as with everything to do with this disease, variation is extreme and the course and progression of the disease is unpredictable.
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. There are claims that the number or degree of exacerbations can be reduced and that life expectancy can be extended. Many promising modes of treatment are being developed and tested but most remain experimental. An enormous amount of research is currently being done on the causes and processes of multiple sclerosis, and understanding of the disease continues to increase.
Here is an article that suggests infection with parasites may have a protective effect against MS relapses. A steady rise in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has been noted in recent decades, and environmental factors could be the cause of this increase. One theory, similar to the "hygiene hypothesis" in which an excessively germ-free environment may contribute to an increase in allergies, holds that a decline in infectious diseases may play a role in increasing autoimmune disease incidence. The first study examining the relationship between parasite infections and MS in humans suggests that such infections may affect the immune response in a way that alters the course of MS.
Previous studies involving animals have shown that parasite infection can influence the course of autoimmune diseases. These studies suggest that individuals with parasite infections have a diminished T cell response when unrelated antigens (foreign substances that generate an immune response) are present. The current study, conducted by Jorge Correale, M.D., and Mauricio Farez, B.Sc., of the Raúl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research in Buenos Aires, Argentina, involved 12 patients with MS who also had a parasite infection, 12 controls with MS who were uninfected, and 12 healthy individuals. The two groups of MS patients had a similar disease course. Patients had a neurological exam every three months and a brain MRI every 6 months, while immunological evaluations were conducted during the last 12 to 18 months of the study. Patients were followed for an average of 4.6 years.
During the study period, there were three clinical relapses of MS in the infected group and 56 relapses in the uninfected group. Only two infected patients showed minimal Expanded Disability Status Score changes (EDSS is used to measure disability due to MS) that lasted less than three months, while the other 10 had no changes in EDSS scores. In the uninfected group, 11 patients showed an overall increase in EDSS. Since MS involves an inflammatory response associated with the production of certain regulatory proteins known as cytokines, the number of cells producing cytokine suppressants was measured and found to be significantly higher in infected patients.
Because parasites inhabit their hosts for long periods of time, they can develop molecules that generate strong anti-inflammatory responses, which enhance their survival. Further investigation is warranted in order to identify which molecules cause immune system effects that dampen the inflammatory reactions normally seen in autoimmune diseases, the authors note. They conclude that "induction of a regulatory anti-inflammatory network generated by persistent parasite infections may offer a potential explanation for environment-related suppression of MS development in areas with low disease prevalence."[ "Association Between Parasite Infection and Immune Responses in MS," Jorge Correale, Mauricio Farez, Annals of Neurology, January 2007]
Researchers have found a promising new treatment that may be successful in slowing or stopping the progress of multiple sclerosis. The discovery, called the "DNA Vaccine" was developed without using any embryonic stem cells.
According to the report by Citizen Link, the treatment works by manipulating a person's DNA, so it will reduce the attack on the "protective coating" around nerve fibers in the brain - which is caused by MS.
Dr. Amit Bar-Or explained, "The idea of these DNA-vaccine approaches would be to modulate or suppress just those cells that you might consider the bad guys cells, while sparing the rest of the immune system."
"Unethical science tends to be a poisoned fruit," added David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences at Family Research Council. "You don't need to go that direction. The adult stem cells and these other nonembryonic types of treatments are the ones where the real success happens." (August 16, 2007)
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Acute: An illness or symptom of sudden onset, which generally has a short duration.
Allergy: Hypersensitivity caused by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen), resulting in an increased reactivity to that antigen on subsequent exposure, sometimes with harmful immunologic consequences.
Antigen: A substance, usually protein or protein-sugar complex in nature, which, being foreign to the bloodstream or tissues of an animal, stimulates the formation of specific blood serum antibodies and white blood cell activity. Re-exposure to similar antigen will reactivate the white blood cells and antibody programmed against this specific antigen.
Anti-inflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms, without directly acting on the cause of inflammation, e.g., glucocorticoids, aspirin.
Ataxia: Failed muscular coordination, irregular muscular action.
Autoimmune Disease: One of a large group of diseases in which the immune system turns against the body's own cells, tissues and organs, leading to chronic and often deadly conditions. Examples include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Bright's disease and diabetes.
Benign: Literally: innocent; not malignant. Often used to refer to cells that are not cancerous.
CNS: Central Nervous System.
Cytokines: Cytokines are chemical messengers that control immune responses. They are secreted by white blood cells, T cells, epithelial cells and some other body cells. There are at least 17 different kinds of interleuken and 3 classes of interferon called alpha, beta and gamma and various subsets. Interleukens and interferons are called “cytokines” and there are two general groupings, Th1 and Th2. Th1 (T-cell Helper type 1) promote cell-mediated immunity (CMI) while Th2 (T-cell Helper type 2) induce humoral immunity (antibodies).
DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid, the large molecule that is the main carrier of genetic information in cells. DNA is found mainly in the chromosomes of cells.
Epidemiology: The study of the causes and distribution of disease in human populations.
Estrogen: One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.
Fatty Acids: Chemical chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that are part of a fat (lipid) and are the major component of triglycerides. Depending on the number and arrangement of these atoms, fatty acids are classified as either saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated. They are nutritional substances found in nature which include cholesterol, prostaglandins, and stearic, palmitic, linoleic, linolenic, eicosapentanoic (EPA), and decohexanoic acids. Important nutritional lipids include lecithin, choline, gamma-linoleic acid, and inositol.
Gout: A disease characterized by an increased blood uric acid level and sudden onset of episodes of acute arthritis.
Immune System: A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.
Lipid: Fat-soluble substances derived from animal or vegetable cells by nonpolar solvents (e.g. ether); the term can include the following types of materials: fatty acids, glycerides, phospholipids, alcohols and waxes.
MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging. A technique used in diagnosis that combines radio waves and magnetic forces to produce detailed images of the internal structures of the body.
Multiple Sclerosis: Demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system, causing patches of sclerosis (plaques) in the brain and spinal cord, manifested by loss of normal neurological functions, e.g., muscle weakness, loss of vision, and mood alterations.
Myelin: A substance made of protein and lipid (fat) that protects the nerves, especially in the brain. The myelin sheath is a jacket of insulation around axons to help them conduct their electrical discharges quickly down the axon.
Nervous System: A system in the body that is comprised of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, ganglia and parts of the receptor organs that receive and interpret stimuli and transmit impulses to effector organs.
Parasite: An organism living in or on another organism.
Paresthesia: A skin sensation, such as burning, prickling, itching, or tingling, with no apparent physical cause.
Polyunsaturated: Polyunsaturated fats or oils. Originate from vegetables and are liquid at room temperature. These oils are a good source of the unsaturated fatty acids. They include flaxseed with added vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), sunflower oil, safflower oil, and primrose oil.
Postpartum Depression: The "baby blues" are a very frequent and completely normal consequence of childbirth, usually wearing off soon afterwards as hormonal and psychological systems get back to normal. Postpartum depression is a less common but severe depression that begins in the weeks following delivery. It impairs the ability of the mother to care for the child and fall in love with it. This makes her feel even more depressed and inadequate thinking that she can not be a good mother. At the extreme, postpartum depression may lead to dangerous delusions (for example, thinking the baby is in some way deformed or cursed) or hallucinations (that may command violent acts). This can occasionally result in a tragic episode of suicide and/or infanticide.
Protein: Compounds composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen present in the body and in foods that form complex combinations of amino acids. Protein is essential for life and is used for growth and repair. Foods that supply the body with protein include animal products, grains, legumes, and vegetables. Proteins from animal sources contain the essential amino acids. Proteins are changed to amino acids in the body.
Serum: The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.
Steroid: Any of a large number of hormonal substances with a similar basic chemical structure containing a 17-carbon 14-ring system and including the sterols and various hormones and glycosides.
Subclinical: Not manifesting characteristic clinical symptoms. Pertaining to a disease or condition.
Thiamine: (Vitamin B-1): A B-complex vitamin that acts as a coenzyme necessary for the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose, which is burned in the body for energy. It is essential for the functioning of the nervous system.
Vertigo: The sensation of spinning or whirling; a state in which you or your surroundings seem to whirl dizzily.
Virus: Any of a vast group of minute structures composed of a protein coat and a core of DNA and/or RNA that reproduces in the cells of the infected host. Capable of infecting all animals and plants, causing devastating disease in immunocompromised individuals. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics, and are completely dependent upon the cells of the infected host for the ability to reproduce.
Vitamin D: A fat-soluble vitamin essential to one's health. Regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood by improving their absorption and utilization. Necessary for normal growth and formation of bones and teeth. For Vitamin D only, 1mcg translates to 40 IU.
White Blood Cell: (WBC): A blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin: a blood corpuscle responsible for maintaining the body's immune surveillance system against invasion by foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria. White cells become specifically programmed against foreign invaders and work to inactivate and rid the body of a foreign substance. Also known as a leukocyte.