Multiple sclerosis is believed to be an autoimmune disorder, whose cause is not known and which has no cure. Yet, the disease is the most common neurological cause of debilitation in young people that affects 2.5 million people world-wide.

In multiple sclerosis, the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues leading to inflammation in small areas of the central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves). The inflammation further causes damage to myelin, the insulating sheath that protects nerve fibres. When myelin gets damaged, the signals travelling along the nerves in the brain and spinal cord are interrupted leading to a wide range of symptoms.

MS Symptoms

Depending on where the “short circuit” occurs, the symptoms may range from vision problems, to tingling, numbness, pain, muscle weakness or stiffness.

Other symptoms include:

* abnormal fatigue
* loss of balance and muscle coordination
* difficulty making walking
* slurred speech,
* tremors,
* stiffness,
* bladder problems


In severe MS, people have symptoms on a permanent basis including partial or complete paralysis, and difficulties with vision, cognition, speech, and elimination.


Relapsing/Remitting MS


About two thirds of people have relapsing/remitting MS. The relapses occur once or twice per year, with good or complete remission in between.

However, there is a tendency for symptoms to worsen very gradually over time.

Relapses are also referred to as exacerbations, episodes and attacks. During relapses, the symptoms usually appear over a short period of time (hours or days), but can last for anywhere between a few days to many months varying in severity. During remission, the symptoms become less severe or disappear altogether. They can last any length of time, sometimes even for years.

Remissions can be explained by the body’s ability to repair the myelin sheet. This can partially restore nerve function but the damage done to the myelin accumulates and the myelin slowly gets damaged beyond repair. It is believed that progression of disability occurs when nerve damage reaches the “tipping point” - the point at which countless small changes suddenly produce a big effect.

Diagnosis


Diagnosing multiple sclerosis is a long process. It consists of neurological examination, evaluation of medical history, and paraclinical findings, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

MS is an illness of uncertainty as the sufferers never know which symptoms they may develop, if they will have a relapse, if their disease will progress, etc Once the disease progresses and the nerve gets damaged, lost functions cannot be regained as the damage is irreversible and permanent.

Treatment


There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis but many different management treatments are available. Their aim of the treatment is to treat symptoms, prevent relapses, preserve the nerve function and prevent permanent disability by slowing down the disease process.

There are three different types of medication for MS: the beta-interferons (Avonex®, Betaseron® and Rebif®), glatiramer acetate (Copaxone®), and natalizumab (Tysabri®). All of these therapies alter, or modulate, the immune response but do so by different mechanisms.

Researches

Researchers are learning every day more and more about what causes MS everyday. Most of the researches are targeting the following areas:

• To repair damaged myelin and nerve fibres
• To understand what triggers the attack of the immune system
• Identifying suspected viruses as MS attacks triggers
• understanding how genes may contribute to the development of MS
• finding ways to helps people with MS to better cope with their disease

Disease-modifying drugs, like those used in MS treatment, are to be life-long taken. These drugs will not preserve the patient from relapsing but will certainly prevent many episodes. The patients will not be aware of the relapse that had been prevented nor how the treatment is reducing inflammation and nerve damage on a day-to-day basis.

Health experts are hoping that by preventing nerve damage in the short term will mean preventing disability in 15 or 20 years from now.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and endMS Campaign

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is a national volunteer health organization that not only funds MS research but also provides services for people with MS and their family members and conducts public education programs.

The Society is preparing to launch a three-year national campaign called endMS in order to raise $60 million to fund research activities and establish the endMS Research and Training Network.

They are planning to attract and train young scientists and make MS their professional focus in an effort to accelerate research to end multiple sclerosis.
Since collaboration is crucial for making significant advances in the knowledge and treatment of multiple sclerosis, the goal of endMS campaign is to unite new and young researchers with the seasoned scientists to speed up the pace of discovery.

MS Society of Canada will focus on creating an enterprise and revolutionizing the way the MS medical community communicates and collaborates.

The aim is to gather the brightest minds in the filed and establish Canada as the premier destination for training and pursuing a career in MS research.

The society will make sure that all the advancements in research will benefit all people suffering from MS regardless of community size or location.

Their research will focus on:


• Understanding and preventing autoimmunity attacks on CNS
• Learning how to stimulate myelin re-growth and repair
• Studying the effects of bone marrow stem cells transplantation in people with MS to stop the disease;
• Inspecting the role of genetic susceptibility and environment;
• Researching the development of MS in children;
• Researching how to help people manage their MS

and hopefully enhance hope to people living with MS that a future free from MS is an achievable goal.

Canadian business leaders from coast-to-coast have also joined in with their time, talent and financial means to support this initiative. Bank executives, investment professionals, entrepreneurs and many others have realized that endMS is the future of MS research and have decided to contribute.