24th March, 2003
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers of the CNS is a fatty tissue called myelin, which helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses. With multiple sclerosis, myelin is missing from various areas, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis or lesions. Sometimes the nerve fiber itself is damaged or broken. Myelin protects nerve fibers and also helps them transfer electric impulses. When myelin is destroyed or damaged, the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain is disrupted, and this produces the various symptoms of MS.
The cause of MS is unknown. However, researchers believe that the damage to myelin results from an abnormal response by the body's immune system. Normally, the immune system defends the body against foreign invaders such as viruses or bacteria. In autoimmune diseases, the body attacks its own tissue. It is believed that MS is an autoimmune disease, in which myelin is attacked.
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS FACTS:
During the phase II trial of antegren for the treatment of MS, researchers found the drug helped reinstate the immune system in people with MS. Marcco Rizzo, M.D., Ph.D., from Yale University, says, "There are no therapies that totally restore the immune system. Restoration occurs only by the body itself. What antegren does is modify the immune system." MRI scans of patients receiving the drug showed improvement and led researchers to believe less damage was done to the patients' brains. Dr. Rizzo says, "What they showed ... was a marked decrease in the ability of the disease to cause damage in the brain and spinal cord."
Currently, antegren is being studied in a phase III trial involving
about 700 participants across North America. If this study concludes antegren
to be a successful treatment, MS patients will have more options for treatment.
Dr. Rizzo says, "Treatment options right now are quite limited. It will
provide an additional modality of treatment and may provide complementary
treatments or provide a venue for possible combination therapies."
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