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Bits and Pieces: End of Summer Edition

Posted Sep 25 2011 3:37am
End of summer / Fin del verano
Image by Claudio.Ar via Flickr

Well, here's another collection of various items of interest (well, at least of my interest), most of which have something to do with MS, and none of which have anything to do with the end of summer. Just thought I'd note that the seasons have changed once again, and we are now officially in autumn, my favorite time of year.

Time just whizzes by, doesn't it? I've noticed that the older you get, the faster time seems to pass, so much so that it becomes increasingly difficult to get your arms around the quickly passing days, and events unfold at breakneck speed. Remember when the two-month summer vacation from grade school seemed like an eternity, filled with innumerable dramas and intricate subplots? Now two months seem to pass in the time it takes me to let out a good yawn.

Just goes to show how subjective is our existence. I suppose this ever increasing sense that time is speeding up has something to do with the fact that as we get older, each increment of time becomes a lesser part of our lives. For example, a two-day-old infant experiences a single day as 1/2 their lives, whereas, at 48 years old, a single day represents 1/17520 of my existence. All the more reason to try to make the most of your remaining time on earth, and here I've gone and completely wasted about a minute of your precious, ever dwindling allotment of life. Please forgive me.

With that, my latest collection of flotsam and jetsam…

♦ Researchers have discovered that the brains of MS patients show a marked deficiency in substances known as Neuro-Steroids ( click here ). Neuro-Steroids help build brain cells and maintain their function, thus increasing their levels in patients deficient in them might not only stop MS in its tracks, but also actually repair some of the damage that the disease does to the central nervous system. Better still, drugs designed to increase the level of Neuro-Steroids are already being trialed for use in combating epilepsy and depression, meaning that, if successful, Neuro-Steroid drugs could be on the market much quicker than a newly discovered compound that has yet to hit the trial pipeline. Of course, this research is still in its early stages, but it does seem quite promising.

♦ In other drug-related news, researchers have figured out a way to deliver drugs across the blood brain barrier, an obstacle that has inhibited the treatment of many central nervous system diseases throughout the history of medicine ( click here ). The blood brain barrier functions to keep the brain and spinal cord out of harm’s way by carefully selecting just what substances can cross from the bloodstream into the CNS, much like the doorman at an exclusive nightclub picks and chooses amongst the riffraff clamoring to get in, only allowing entry to the anointed few deemed worthy of such a privilege, a practice that made me want to vomit even back in the glory days when I was "fortunate" enough to be one of those deemed worthy. Anyway, researchers have now figured out a way to open a temporary window in the blood brain barrier, potentially paving the way for a new level of efficiency in treatments designed specifically for central nervous system disorders.

♦ Researchers in Japan have discovered a high-tech method of analyzing cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), allowing for the differentiation between MS and other neurologic diseases ( click here ). This could be hugely important, as currently there is no test specific for MS, making it a diagnosis by exclusion. In other words, doctors diagnose MS primarily by eliminating other possible causes of a patient's symptoms and diagnostic test results, a process which results in a fairly wide margin of error and a misdiagnosis rate of about 5%-10% . That's right, for every 10 people reading these words, there's a good chance that one of you has been misdiagnosed. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

♦ A bit of bad news, as simvastatin (otherwise known as Zocor) has been found to be ineffective as a treatment for MS ( click here ). Four or five years ago there was much buzz about the statin drugs (commonly used to treat high cholesterol) possibly being of use in the treatment of MS, potentially as an add-on to be used in addition to other therapies, but recent research results have been disappointing.

♦ In CCSVI related news, the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center (BNAC) published a comprehensive overview of all of the CCSVI research that has been done to date. The BNAC Patient Advisory Council, of which I am part, put together an easy-to-read digest distilled from the much longer piece, written specifically with patient education in mind ( click here ). It's done in a question-and-answer format, and should provide a nice overview of the current state of CCSVI knowledge.

♦ The Canadian province of Saskatchewan this week announced that it will be sending MS patients to Albany, New York to participate in a CCSVI treatment clinical trial ( click here ). Although CCSVI research is not moving along as fast as many of us wish it would, in actuality the pace of research is quickening and gaining momentum, and hopefully we will soon start to reap the benefits of that research.There is still far more about CCSVI that we don't know than we do, and getting those questions answered, dither pro or con, in the quickest possible fashion is in the best interests of all, regardless of their stance on the hypothesis.

♦ For those interested in a comprehensive and extremely well researched and well-written account of the history of the CCSVI hypothesis and the science behind it, a terrific resource is the book "CCSVI As the Cause of Multiple Sclerosis" ( click here ), written by Marie Rhodes, a nurse and MS patient who was at the forefront of the CCSVI movement when it was in its early infancy. The book offers a wealth of knowledge, and is even available in a Kindle version.

♦ The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA), a terrific organization that does much to aid MS patients, is offering a couple of interesting programs that caught my eye. The first is a webinar series designed to instruct patients on taking care of their financial well-being ( click here ), an incredibly important topic given the fact that so many of us are either already on disability or are contemplating a potentially financially treacherous future out of the workplace. The first webinar, "Being Money Smart", is scheduled for October 6, so sign up now!

The second program is the MSAA's Annual Art Showcase, which is now accepting submissions ( click here ). This year's theme is "Change", and artists are encouraged to interpret this theme as creatively and broadly as they wish. The showcase is limited to two dimensional art, and doesn't include photography (boo!).

♦ For those interested in the alternative treatment Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN), Julie Stachowiak, who writes About.com's invaluable weekly column on MS, has been keeping a diary of her recent foray into the world of LDN ( click here ). Naltrexone is an old drug that is used to treat various addictions, but in very low doses it has been purported to alleviate the symptoms of MS and a variety of other diseases. Anecdotal accounts seem very encouraging, with many patients reporting significant improvements while taking LDN. I tried LDN early on in my MS adventures, but found it didn't do anything for me. Of course, I'm not the best example to go by, since my diagnosis is quite uncertain ( click here ).

Unfortunately, because Naltrexone is an off patent drug it's cheap and there's not much money to be made from it, so very few if any scientifically valid clinical trials have been done to test its efficacy on MS patients. Just another of the many travesties visited upon chronically ill patients worldwide by a medical research system driven more by the quest for profit than by the desire to alleviate the misery of millions. Harrumph.

♦ Researchers in Scotland have found that marriage between cousins is not to blame for the high rate of MS found in that region ( click here ). Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, approximately 1 in 500, and the islands in which the study was conducted, Orkney and Shetland, have rates higher still. Far be it for me to cast judgment, so all I'll say to those contemplating marrying a close relative is that you can put any fears about your future children being predisposed to developing MS to rest. As for fears about extra limbs, or eyeballs in the middle of their foreheads, well, that's another story…

♦ In a sad bit of news, a lion suffering from Multiple Sclerosis like symptoms in Brazil died this past July ( click here ). Apparently, the plight of Ariel the lion touched the hearts of many, and his story was chronicled on his own website and Facebook page. Since I believe in a just universe, I'd like to think that Ariel is now in lion heaven, where he is using his fully functional claws, paws, and powerful legs to viciously maul and tear to pieces all of the naughty wildebeests and zebras who were sent to wildebeest and zebra hell. For everything, there is a season…

As Porky the Pig might say, th-th-th-that's all folks…
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