May 5, 2004
Researchers from 22 hospitals across Canada are embarking on a project to try to determine what causes multiple sclerosis. They'll do it by studying children.
The $4.3-million, five-year study will look at the risk of developing the disease after a first attack. Not all people who suffer a first attack go on to experience a second one; a person must have two attacks before a diagnosis of MS is made.
"The risk of developing MS after an initial attack of the immune system on the brain or spinal cord is currently unknown," said Dr. Brenda Banwell, lead study investigator and director of the Hospital for Sick Children's pediatric MS clinic in Toronto.
"We do not know the key triggers of the MS disease process, nor do we know how these triggers interact with an individual's immune system.
"My colleagues and I are extremely hopeful this work will help us understand the disease at its onset, benefiting both children and adults with MS."
It is believed both genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of MS. By studying children - who've had fewer life experiences and exposures to viruses, pollutants and other possible triggers - researchers hope a clearer picture of the environmental factors will emerge.
MS is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. Canada has one of the highest rates of the disease in the world. It's estimated 50,000 Canadians have MS.
Funding for the study is being provided by the MS Scientific Research
Foundation and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
Copyright © 2004, Canadian Press