Thursday, February 22, 2007

New Avenue of Treatment for MS

Have you ever had one of those teachers who really inspired you and made you think, as opposed to just memorizing stuff to regurgitate for your exam? For me, that teacher was Stan Harris, who taught government (political science) and sociology at my high school.

The first semester of my senior year in high school, while I was taking his government class, Stan announced that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a debilitating disease that, according to Wikipedia, can cause a variety of symptoms, including changes in sensation, visual problems, muscle weakness, depression, difficulties with coordination and speech, severe fatigue, short term memory loss, problems with balance, over heating and pain. MS will cause impaired mobility and disability in more severe cases.

Many years ago, scientists studying MS patients noticed that women with MS who became pregnant experienced not just reduced symptoms, but actual improvement of symptoms, during the course of their pregnancy and shortly after. After a while, however, symptoms return and continue to progress.

New research conducted at the University of Calgary shows that a hormone produced during pregnancy, prolactin, triggers production of myelin, a fatty substance that insulates nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, indicated that prolactin could be used in people to repair damage caused by MS and improve their symptoms.

The lead researcher said he anticipated that one to two years of additional animal studies will be needed before testing prolactin in people with MS, meaning that actual treatments will not be available for probaly a decade or more, but if you know anyone who suffers from this debilitating disease, this is still excellent news.

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