More MS news articles for Dec 2001

Research promising in search for cure

Tuesday, 12/25/01
Gail Kerr

There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis. Yet. But the commitment to researching treatment and a cure of MS is huge. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, for example, committed $18 million to support 60 new scientific research projects this past fall. They are spending $1.6 million on four projects at Vanderbilt University alone.

''The way I feel about it, I think there is a cure in sight,'' said Kevin Poff, chairman of the board of the Middle Tennessee chapter of the MS Society. ''Do we know what it is? No. Do we know what causes MS at this point? No. But I'm more optimistic now than I've ever been.''

There are several hot areas in MS research:

What triggers the disease? Is it genetic, occurring primarily or only in people with some genetic susceptibility to it?

What can repair myelin and the nerve fibers of the central nervous system?

Is the disease triggered by some sort of environmental or infectious factor?

Can the progress of MS be halted through drug therapy. The current treatment drugs reduce the rate of relapse, but research-ers are still looking for the magic bullet.

At Yale University, surgeons have performed the first attempt to repair an MS brain lesion by transplanting cells from the patient's peripheral nervous system. They'll track her by giving her routine MRIs and exams for six months. If the transplant works, there may be a way for a person's body to help heal itself.

At Vanderbilt, one study is looking at whether MS is linked to a bacterial infection. They found evidence of one kind of bacteria in the spinal fluid from 17 patients with MS. Not only could this help figure out what causes MS, but it could impact therapy.

Pharmaceutical companies also conduct extensive research. And, there are also implications for MS patients to benefit from stem cell research.

All in all, experts are optimistic.

''Do I feel like within say, 10 years, we will be able to at least arrest some forms of the disease? I think so,'' Poff said. ''I think that is realistic. I don't think there is anyone that could tell you a cure is right in front of us.''

Gail Kerr

© Copyright 2001 The Tennessean