Multiple sclerosis (also known as MS) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that results in a lack of communication between a person’s cells and their nervous system. It can affect pain levels, movement, vision, and physical sensations. There are more female multiple sclerosis sufferers than men, and many have developed the disease young in life, with the most prevalent detection group being between the ages of 15 and 40.
Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto suffers from this debilitating disease and, during the month of March, is highlighting the need for research into this disease with Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. While many sufferers hide their tremors and other symptoms, Neil is keen to let the world see just what happens to an MS sufferer after having to deal with tremors during his time in front of the camera.
While Neil may be offering a public face to the disease, scientists in Australia and Canada are leading the way in multiple sclerosis research behind the scenes. Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia have just developed a molecule called WEHI-345 that could help slow, or even stop, multiple sclerosis. Professor Andrew Lew, one of the researchers who helped develop WEHI-345, is excited for the discovery.
“We treated preclinical models with WEHI-345 after symptoms of MS first appeared, and found it could prevent further progression of the disease in 50 percent of cases. These results are extremely important, as there are currently no good preventive treatments for MS.”
A fellow researcher, Associate Professor Guillaume Lessene, also hopes that along with WEHI-345 helping multiple sclerosis sufferers, the molecule may also be developed into an anti-inflammatory drug which could potentially assist in many other inflammatory diseases.
While this discovery is exciting, over in Canada, they are leading the way with multiple research efforts. Currently, they have 49 MS-focused researchers, 63 multiple sclerosis research trainees, and three collaborative multiple sclerosis research grants. And there is a personal reason for this: if you are a Canadian, you are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than in any other country across the world. While there is no known cure yet, and it is still unsure as to what triggers multiple sclerosis, factors such as genetics, environment, and modifiable conditions such as smoking, Vitamin D deficiency, and obesity are likely suspects. Yves Savoie, president and CEO of the MS Society of Canada, is keen to accept the challenge and beat MS.
“Canadians have a strong history of not backing down from a challenge — whether its striving hard to take top honors at the Olympics, offering aid to others in need or showing the world that we can live together in diversity rather than adversity. We hope that the fight to end MS becomes a part of this history.”
Many hope that Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month helps bring this dream of an MS-free world to life.
[Image credited to Mikael Häggström via Wikimedia]