Multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease of the central nervous system involving unpredictable and disabling attacks, affects about 400,000 people, including 10,000 new cases diagnosed every year in the United States. Many investigators believe MS to be an autoimmune disease, such as neuromyelitis optica and paraneoplastic autoimmune disorders.
In autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. In MS, the nerve-insulating myelin comes under assault. This disrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body producing effects that can range from benign to disabling to devastating. In neuromyelitis optica, immune system cells and antibodies primarily attack the optic nerves and the spinal cord.
Initial symptoms of MS include blurred or double vision and usually occur between the ages of 20 and 40. Most MS patients experience limb weakness and difficulty with coordination and balance that can impair walking or standing. MS often leads to pain, speech impediments, tremors, dizziness, cognitive and bladder impairments, and even paralysis.
There are treatments for MS and several autoimmune diseases, but no cures.
What causes MS?
How can we best prevent disease relapses?
Could stem cell transplant be the future of treatment?
How can we treat and maintain function in secondary progressive MS?