MS (Multiple Sclerosis) has traditionally been thought of as a Neurological disease, but some recent findings may suggest otherwise. It is a debilitating disease that affects roughly two to 150 out of every 100, 000 people, dependent on the geographic location you're looking at. The highest rate of occurence is in colder climates, which has led many to believe that a lack of vitamin D, due to less exposure to sunlight, could be one of the triggers of the disease. The thing is that although there are many treatments available, they primarily treat the symptoms since no one has definitively found a cause of the disease. And they aren't very effective at that either.
MS is an auto-immune disease, and what that means is that something triggers your immune system to attack and eat away at the protective sheath of your neural pathways. As this protective fatty layer disappears, the electrical signals have more and more difficulty traveling down the lines, resulting in paralysis, blindness, and all kinds of different symptoms including the possibility and likelihood of death due to complications. There are different types of MS, some attack quickly, while others are more benign, but no matter the type, the person suffers both emotionally and physically, and their families are put through a very difficult process of watching a loved one fall apart before their eyes without being able to help. Once the protective sheath on these pathways are lost, the body has no real way to grow them back, so although some treatments are effective for some patients in slowing down the disease, only a minority of patients experience any effect at all, and the medications are quite expensive ($20, 000+ per year). Even if scientists find a way to halt progression completely, there's no way to re-coup any lost mobility, or other capabilities already lost to the disease, so the need for answers about what causes this internal meltdown in the first place is a top priority.
Recently, a Doctor out of Italy named Paolo Zamboni, found some very interesting results when doing venous doppler scans (A type of Sonogram) of MS patients. He was following a lead he had, based on a common indicator of MS that no one had been able to explain, and that is the build up of iron deposits around the blood "Drain" of the brain (where blood leaves the brain cavity). His theory was that, for some reason, blood wasn't leaving the brain as fast as it was coming in, which led to his analysis of the major arteries down the neck and chest area of some MS patients (his wife has MS). He found a large percentage of MS patients had blockages or narrowings of these exit corridors of blood flow. These blockages caused gunk (Iron) to be left at the drain of the brain cavity due to the irregularity in flow which he called CCVI (Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency). His theory is the Iron itself could be causing the symptoms of MS since a build up of Iron anywhere in the body has proven to cause an increase in Free Radicals, which basically damages the DNA of cells (such as immune cells) and causes them to go haywire.
His findings suggest the first plausible theory on a cause of MS, which no one has been able to come up with until now. Since Neurologists have been the ones pioneering therapies and studies on MS, if this theory has merit, it would be like asking an Electrician to diagnose and fix a plumbing problem in your house, which would explain why it has taken so long to find any real answers on this disease that affects so many.
Dr. Zamboni's solution and therapy for CCVI is basically what's called angioplasty. This involves either putting in a stent, or using small balloons to stretch the walls of the areas where these blockages in blood flow lie. Angioplasty is a very common procedure for patients with heart problems where plaque and blockages occur around the heart. Stents are little metal tubes inserted into veins to widen them allowing more flow, but Dr Zamboni's procedure, what he calls Liberation Therapy, has become quite controversial since the stents are placed in arteries, not veins, and do present a risk to patients undergoing the treatment. Although he's performed this procedure on hundreds of patients, where most have shown dramatic results in the improvement of not only their existing symptoms, but an almost halt to their progression, many countries including Canada have not approved the procedure (even for trials) until more "research" to prove or disprove the effectiveness of the therapy is completed.
Here's where the conflict of interest comes in; Pharmaceutical companies charge a lot, and I mean a lot for medication to treat the symptoms of MS. None of these medications actually cure the disease, and only slow the progression which means they have customers paying tens of thousands of dollars per year for a very, very long time. Pharmaceutical companies also spend tons on lobbyists and campaign contributions for politicians, so a "Cure" wouldn't be in their best Corporate Interests.
Although the findings of Dr. Zamboni are intriguing, I'm not saying they are proven nor would I assume they would work for every patient. But when the Government steps in to halt citizens that request a common procedure to fix a real blood flow problem for no clear reason other than the fact they are also diagnosed with MS, I feel that's wrong. The problem with this decision is that many patients will continue their decline, and potentially succumb to the disease before any findings are completed and published. For a procedure as common as angioplasty, and at least for those patients who have harsher forms of the disease, I say they should be allowed to do anything they wish to try to hold back the spectre of what will befall them, even if it's just to give them a glimmer of hope and comfort during their decline.
Many patients have decided to ignore the government and the MS Society's efforts to delay and block trails by traveling to countries like Poland, Argentina, Mexico, and a few others that perform the operation for anyone willing to pay, and the majority have reported significant improvements months, and in some cases, over a year since their procedure. None claim they have been cured, but almost all have reported an improvement in their quality of life, and that is priceless when you have been powerless to stop the deterioration of your condition for so long.
If you feel like I do, I suggest you contact your local representative of Government and let them know your thoughts. There's also many informational sites and support groups you can research to learn more.