Multiple Sclerosis A Research Paper

Multiple Sclerosis
Stephanie ****

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that randomly attacks the
central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The progress, severity and specific symptoms of
the disease can not be predicted; symptoms may range from tingling and numbness to paralysis
and blindness. MS is a devastating disease because people live with its unpredictable physical and
emotional effects for the rest of their lives.
MS is a well-known disease, but poorly understood. In the United States there are
approximately 200 new cases diagnosed each week; MS is a common disease and not always
caused by genetics. Therefore, I feel we all need to have a better understanding of this disease that
has no cure yet. I hope to make MS more understanding in my paper.
In my paper I will explain what MS is, who gets MS, what MS has to do with the
metabolism, some new techniques being used to pinpoint genetic factors, what some of the
symptoms of MS is, and some treatments for MS.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disabling illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal
cord (Bernard). Under normal conditions these nerve cells are surrounded by an insulating sheath made of fatty
"myelin," which speeds the passage of nerve impulses. In MS, this myelin sheath is inflamed or damaged,
disrupting nerve impulses and leaving areas of scarring (sclerosis). The disruption of nerve signals within the
brain and spinal cord causes a variety of symptoms that may affect vision, sensation, and body movements. “These
symptoms usually wax and wane through a series of relapses (episodes when symptoms suddenly get worse)
alternating with remissions (periods of recovery, when symptoms improve).” (Brunnscheiler) For many patients,
a long history of MS attacks over several decades leads to slowly progressing disability, but for others the
disability is more rapid and severe.
MS is a life-long chronic disease diagnosed primarily in young adults who have a virtually normal life
expectancy. Consequently, the economic, social, and medical costs associated with the disease are significant.
Estimates place the annual costs of MS in the United States in excess of $2.5 billion. (Melvin)
No one knows exactly how many people have MS. It is believed that, currently, there are approximately
250,000 to 350,000 people in the United States with MS diagnosed by a physician. (Boyden) This estimate
suggests that approximately 200 new cases are diagnosed each week.
Also, MS is the most common nerve disease to develop in young persons after birth, and it affects over 1
million young adults worldwide. “Close relatives of a person with MS are 8 times more likely than average to
develop the disease themselves, and children of a person with MS run 30 to 50 times the average risk.”
Most people experience their first symptoms of MS between the ages of 20 and 40, but a diagnosis is often
delayed. This is due to both the transitory nature of the disease and the lack of a specific diagnostic test--specific
symptoms and changes in the brain must develop before the diagnosis is confirmed. (Health Central)
Although scientists have documented cases of MS in young children and elderly adults, symptoms rarely
begin before age 15 or after age 60. Whites are more than twice as likely as other races to develop MS. In general,
women are affected at almost twice the rate of men; however, among patients who develop the symptoms of MS at
a later age, the gender ratio is more balanced. (Waxman)

To understand what is happening when a person has MS, it is first necessary to know a little about how
the healthy immune system works. The immune system -- a complex network of specialized cells and organs --
defends the body against attacks by "foreign" invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. It does this
by seeking out and destroying the interlopers as they enter the body. Substances capable of triggering an immune
response are called antigens. (Hofmann)
“The immune system displays both enormous diversity and extraordinary specificity.” (Hofmann) It can
recognize millions of distinctive foreign molecules and produce its own molecules and cells to match up with and
counteract each of them. In order to have room for enough cells to match the millions of possible foreign
invaders, the immune system stores just a few cells for each specific antigen. When an antigen appears, those few
specifically matched cells are stimulated to multiply into a full-scale army. Later, to prevent this army from
overexpanding, powerful