Multiple sclerosis (MS) is fascinating illness that can range from mild annoyance to debilitating nightmare. The frightening nature and unclear cause of the disease makes it a magnet for questionable medical therapies (i.e. quackery). A piece published last week in (surprise!) the Huffington Post helps fuel the fires of suspicion and paranoia while failing to shed any light on the future of MS research.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the nervous system. Its victims develop symptoms based on what part of the nervous system is affected. For example, if MS attacks the optic nerve, a patient may experience blurry vision or blindness. If it affects the motor areas of the brain that controls the left leg, the patient will develop weakness in the left leg. Typically, the symptoms will last a certain period of time and then improve, but often not completely back to normal.
“I am confident that this could be a revolution for the research and diagnosis of multiple sclerosis,” Dr. Zamboni said in an interview.
Not everyone is so bullish: Skeptics warn the evidence is too scant and speculative to start rewriting medical textbooks. Even those intrigued by the theory caution that MS sufferers should not rush off to get the surgery – nicknamed the “liberation procedure” – until more research is done.
The National MS Society (US) is also taking a cautious approach and is facilitating further research into this new theory.
Of the MS society’s statement, Dr. Lorne Brandes, an oncologist who blogs for CTV News’ Health Blog, wrote, “If their official response to Dr. Zamboni’s research was any cooler, icicles would form on their spokespersons’ lips. Why am I not surprised? These organizations are big money operations, run by risk-adverse professionals and fundraisers who are absolutely petrified of making a mistake and prematurely backing a losing horse. Their interests are also heavily intertwined with those of Big Pharma.”
This is absurd. Advocate groups such as the NMMS are often supported by patients and their families and others who are strongly motivated to get results. The MS society is actively seeking researchers to help investigate these new findings but is cautioning patients not to jump to quickly after unproven therapies.
It is important for researchers to think outside the box and we believe Dr. Zamboni has done this. His hypothesis is a path that must be more fully explored and Dr. Zamboni himself has stated that additional research is essential to evaluate it.
The National MS Society is pursuing follow-up research in how CCSVI might be involved in the MS process and we have invited investigators from around the world whose research is relevant to MS to submit proposals to apply for grants that would explore this lead. These applications will undergo an accelerated review process.
Where is the tepid, icicle-laden response?
Frohman EM, Racke MK, & Raine CS (2006). Multiple sclerosis–the plaque and its pathogenesis. The New England journal of medicine, 354 (9), 942-55 PMID: 16510748
Zamboni, P., Galeotti, R., Menegatti, E., Malagoni, A., Tacconi, G., Dall’Ara, S., Bartolomei, I., & Salvi, F. (2008). Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency in patients with multiple sclerosis Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 80 (4), 392-399 DOI: 10.1136/jnnp.2008.157164
Zamboni, P., Galeotti, R., Menegatti, E., Malagoni, A., Gianesini, S., Bartolomei, I., Mascoli, F., & Salvi, F. (2009). A prospective open-label study of endovascular treatment of chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency Journal of Vascular Surgery, 50 (6), 1348-1358000 DOI: 10.1016/j.jvs.2009.07.096