National Multiple Sclerosis Societies Thrower, MD, Director Multiple Sclerosis Institute, Shepherd Spinal Center, Atlanta, GA. Simon G. Gregory, PhD, Assistant Professor Duke University Center for Human Genetics.
Ben Thrower, MD: Very typical lesions that we see here...
Narrator: Diagnosing MS can be tricky, but as many experts will tell you, the earlier you diagnose, the earlier you can start treatment.And the better the chances of stopping the disease in its tracks.
Ben Thrower, MD: It actually leaves sort of large areas without any myelin…
Narrator: In 1993 treatment for MS was revolutionized with the introduction of drugs that stave off the erosion of the insulation called myelin that protects nerves cells.In addition, researchers have been hard at work developing other therapies that show promise at restoring mobility.And there have been landmark discoveries in MS in recent years.In 2007 the first genes linked to MS were discovered.Today scientists have identified at least 57 of these genes. The majority associated with the body's immune response function.
Ben W. Thrower, MD: So we know that MS has a genetic component and if we could understand that, that genetic component, it could potentially lead to better diagnostic tools…it could also lead to sort of custom tailoring therapies to the individual, rather than sort of making a best guess as to what treatment fits a given individual.
Narrator: The common belief is that people with MS inherit a susceptibility to this destructive immune response disorder.And that its onset may well be triggered by something they're exposed to in the environment—like a virus perhaps.But there are other factors that also intrigue MS researchers.
Ben W. Thrower, MD: The majority of people with multiple sclerosis appear to have low vitamin D levels.That's not saying it's causing MS in isolation, but it looks like it's part of that complex story of multiple sclerosis.
Narrator: Research is currently underway to help determine if restoring vitamin D levels to normal would be an effective therapy for MS.
Ben W. Thrower, MD: So I think there's a lot of hope in stem cells, to me the holy grail of neurology is neural repair.
Narrator: But in spite of all the recent progress and promise, there is still much work yet to be done.
Ben W. Thrower, MD: I think we will see neural repair in our lifetime.
Narrator: Optimism for the future MS treatment prompted by advances that have already bared much fruit. For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.