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Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system.

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Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Though the disease only targets the brain and spinal cord, the effects on these areas cause symptoms to develop throughout the entire body. The words 'multiple sclerosis' literally mean many scars and for a great number of patients this is what the disease entails. Many MS sufferers are still able to live full lives due to the extensive production of symptom targeted drugs. Three of the most recently developed treatment options for this disease are autologous stem cell transplantation, T cell vaccination and plasmapheresis. Although some of these treatments are still experimental, all have had a positive effect on cellular reactions and processes of MS sufferers and have the potential to be beneficial in the future. Despite extensive research, the cause of Multiple Sclerosis is unknown. The common physical and mental symptoms of the disease include loss of vision, double vision, dizziness, weakness, loss of sensation and problems controlling bladder and bowel function. (http://www.understandingms.com) Symptoms are varied because the disease affects the brain and spinal cord neurons, which in turn control all bodily responses. These symptoms are the results of the degeneration of the protective layering around neurons, the myelin sheath.(!) The myelin sheath is a protective coating which wraps around the axon to prevent the electrical impulse diminishing as seen in Appendix 1. ...read more.


This includes "cancer cells, hair and intestinal cells and white blood cells of the immune system."() While the sufferer's immune system is suppressed, antibiotics and other fungal and viral protective agents are administered for protection against infection. The sample of patient stem cells taken earlier is then purged of immune system cells by dosing them with low level radiation, effectively resetting them. These cleansed stem cells are then infused back into the patient's spine. The patient must take Neupogen, an oral drug which promotes multiplication of stem cells. As in foetal development, the stem cells differentiate into the cells needed by the body. Since the full grown MS sufferer has no need for other body cells aside from the immune system cells these are the only ones produced. Thus the stem cell will eventually make brand new immune cells, devoid of all prior knowledge of disease. (Appendix 3) This means patients have the immune system of a child and are thus equally vulnerable. Due to the effectual resetting of the immune system, the patient must avoid infection for as long as possible whilst their immune system learns anew. This treatment option is involved, expensive and experimental. Although results indicate that the treatments is able to stop the progression of multiple sclerosis, the radiation and chemotherapy are harsh on the patient and the whole process takes years to complete. ...read more.


This separates the blood into layers (Appendix 5) and allows the patient's plasma to be removed from the sample and the red and white blood cells returned to the body. For any change to be apparent large amounts of blood must be As appendix 6 shows, plasma contains, among other things, T-cells and the antibodies they produce. By periodically cleansing the blood of plasma these harmful agents are removed and the progression of the disease reduced. Plasmapheresis is not a cure, it is a palliative treatment which slows the progression of the disease rather than stopping it. Although based on theory, this treatment system has yielded positive results and is close to becoming a commercialised form of preventative treatment for multiple sclerosis. In conclusion, these three types of treatment all target a specific part of the Multiple Sclerosis degeneration. At present no treatment is able to cure the disease, however, scientists hope that in slowing the deterioration of myelin sheath the patient's quality of life can be preserved until actual cures are found. Autologous stem cell transplantation and T-cell vaccination are at present experimental treatments; with pleasing preliminary results. Plasmapheresis is a treatment plan that must span a sufferer's entire life to be effective and for this reason is only administered to those at serious health risk. At this stage, research is focused on understanding the disease and its causes. Potential treatments are being explored, and hopefully the future will yield a complete cure to this dehabilitating disease. Suzanne Poulgrain ...read more.

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