Transcript of "Multiple Sclerosis: The Causes and Treatments. Kelli Tipton ..."
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Multiple Sclerosis: The Causes and Treatments.
Topics in Biology
Joshua Cannon and Cherry Townson
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My paper is about the causes and treatments for a chronic nervous system disease called
Multiple Sclerosis. Although the exact causes are unknown, as you will see they have their
theories, and they do make sense. The treatments however cannot be exact treatments till they
know the exact cause of this disease.
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According to the National MS Society, Multiple Sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often
disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, and it is thought to be an Autoimmune
Disease. The body’s own defense system attacks myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and
protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue
(sclerosis), which give the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is
damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are
distorted or interrupted, producing the variety of symptoms that can occur (2007).
At this moment scientist do not know the exact cause of MS, but they do have their
theories. Some theories are toxins, genes, infections, the environment, and your immune system.
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Over the decades they have studied soil and water to see if the disease might be related to an
excessive content of such minerals as aluminum, copper, manganese, and other. But the
enormous variety of toxic element across latitudes spanning four continents led scientists to
rule out a geological factor. To date, all toxic elements that have been studied, including
cosmic rays in the atmosphere, have been ruled out as the cause of MS (Rosner and Ross, pg
According to the National MS Society, while MS is not hereditary in a strict sense, having a
first- degree relative such as a parent or sibling with MS increase an individual’s risk of
developing the disease several- fold above the risk for the general population. Some researchers
theorize that MS develops because a person is born with a genetic predisposition to react to some
environmental agent that, upon exposure, triggers an autoimmune response (2007).
Today one of the most popular scientific theories is that MS is caused by viral infection.
Actually, for the past one hundred years, scientists have suspected that MS is caused by a
virus attack. Charcot’s student and successor, Pierre Marie, first raised the possibility in
1884, and today many researchers still believe that a viral hypothesis can best explain the
results of many MS studies (Rosner and Ross, pg 17, 1987).
More than a dozen viruses and bacteria, including measles, canine distemper, human herpes
virus- 6, Epstein- Barr, and Chlamydia pneumonia have been or are being investigated to
determine if they are involved in the development of MS, but none have been definitively
proven to trigger MS (National MS Society, What Causes MS, 2007).
Viruses are known to cause demyelization diseases in animal and humans (National MS Society,
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It has been long established that Ms is more prominent in colder regions and very rare in
subtropical and tropical areas- the farther away from the equator, the higher the incidence of
MS. In fact, if a line were drawn straight along the thirty- seventh parallel, the incidence
above the line would be almost twice that below it (Rosner and Ross, pg 7, 1987).
According to the National MS Society, some scientists think the reason may have something to
do with vitamin D, which the human body produces naturally when the skin is exposed to
sunlight. People who live closer to the equator are exposed to greater amounts of sunlight year-
round. As a result, they tend to have higher levels of naturally- produced vitamin D, which is
thought to have a beneficial impact on immune function and may help protect against
autoimmune diseases like MS (2007).
It is now generally accepted that MS involves an autoimmune process- an abnormal response
of the body’s immune system that is directed against the myelin. They exact antigen, or
target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack, remains unknown. In recent years,
however researchers have been able to identify which immune cells are mounting the attack,
some of the factors that cause them to attack, and some of the sites, or receptors, on the
attacking cells that appear to be attracted to the myelin to begin the destructive process
(National MS Society, What Causes MS, 2007).
There is no cure for MS, although we are coming up with new ways to manage
symptoms, and modify the disease course. According to the National MS Society, the following
agents can reduce disease activity and disease progression.
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FDA-Approved Disease-Modifying Agents
Avonex (interferon beta-1a)
Betaseron (interferon beta-1b)
Copaxone (glatiramer acetate)
Rebif (interferon beta-1a)
These drugs reduce the frequency and severity of clinical attacks(also called relapses or
exacerbations), which are defined as the sudden or worsening of an MS symptom or symptoms,
or the appearance of new symptoms, which lasts at least 24 hours and is separate for a pervious
exacerbation by at least one month (2007). Each of these regimes involves injectable
medications and thus requires extensive patient and family education about drug reconstitution,
self- injection (or with family assistance) with site rotation, and the need for regular laboratory
testing to monitor for side effects (Halper and Holland, 1997).
While symptoms can range from mild to severe, most can be successfully managed with
strategies that include medication, self- care techniques, rehabilitation (with a physical or
occupation therapist, speech/ language pathologist, cognitive remediation specialist, among
others), and the use of assistive devices (National MS Society, treatments, 2007).
Although this disease affects people differently there are many different ways to treat
them even though they may not have to same strain, or course of the disease. Multiple Sclerosis
is a complicated disease that is being researched very well and we are trying to find what the
exact cause and the best treatments for this complicated disease.
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Halper, J., & Holland, N. (1997). Comprehensive Nursing Care in Multiple Sclerosis.New York:
Rosner, L. J., & Ross, S. (1987). Multiple Sclerosis.New York : Prentice Hall Press.
National MS Society. Treatments. Retrieved July 4, 2008, from
National MS Society. Viruses. Retrieved July 4, 2008, from
National MS Society. What is Multiple Sclerosis?. Retrieved July 4, 2008,from
National MS Society. What Causes MS?. Retrieved July 4, 2008, from