• Discovery’s Edge: Into the Fray – Battling Against MS

medical illustration of damage to the myelin sheath that wraps around nerve fibers that look frayed, with multiple sclerosis

Like a case of breaking and entering, when multiple sclerosis attacks the central nervous system, it leaves an evidence trail of theft and damage in the brain. But just as it’s difficult to assess the full extent of a burglary until one begins looking for clues in each room, MS has similarly challenged scientific investigators. They’ve had to search different areas of the brain to assess what and how much has gone missing, determine how valuable those items are and whether they’re replaceable.

MS doesn’t lend itself to one simple definition, but recent studies have shed light on the variability across stages and subtypes of the disease, and among patients.

Damaging the communication highway between brain and body, MS can harm the ability to talk, walk, eat or even think. At the root of the problem are disrupted nerve signals that seem to result from damage to the myelin sheath that wraps around nerve fibers, much like a wire with a frayed casing fails to conduct electricity properly.

Since MS was first diagnosed a century and a half ago, it has puzzled and intrigued physicians and researchers with its complexity. While MS now affects approximately 2.3 million people worldwide, the cause remains unknown, the course of disease is unpredictable and there is currently no cure. Diagnosis and treatment are also challenging because no single diagnostic test exists, but Mayo Clinic researchers such as Claudia Lucchinetti, M.D., chair of neurology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., are hoping to tackle these unknowns. Read the rest of the article on Discovery's Edge.

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