Multiple Sclerosis May Not Be An Autoimmune Disease

While multiple sclerosis may be considered as an autoimmune disease for a long time now, that view might change, in light of an article recently published in the December issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology.  According to the paper, MS might be considered as a metabolic disorder instead of as an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system attacks the myelin in neurons found in the central nervous system.

According to Dr. Angelique Corthals, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a forensic anthropologist, MS might be more likely caused by faulty lipid metabolism rather than other autoimmune diseases. MS might be more similar to coronary atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries than to any autoimmune disease. Looking at MS from this perspective may also help explain many of the puzzling characteristics of the disease, such as the fact that it strikes more women than men and that why MS cases are rapidly rising around the world. This new view to MS may further help researchers to discover new treatments and possibly a cure for the disease in the near future.

Multiple sclerosis is characterized by inflammation that follows damage to myelin, the protective tissue that insulates nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  This disease affects over 1.3 million people worldwide and is seen to be increasing. Medical experts have long believed that its cause may be pointed to the immune system not working properly.  The experts until now still can’t provide a full explanation on what really triggers the said disease.

Other factors such as vitamin D intake, genes, diet, and certain pathogens have been linked to MS. But so far, evidence that link these same risk factors also sometimes provide inconsistent and even contradictory results, further confusing researchers from finding any effective cure.

According to Dr. Corthals, “Each time a genetic risk factor has shown a significant increase in MS risk in one population, it has been found to be unimportant in another. Pathogens like Epstein-Barr virus have been implicated, but there’s no explanation for why genetically similar populations with similar pathogen loads have drastically different rates of disease.”

“The search for MS triggers in the context of autoimmunity simply hasn’t led to any unifying conclusions about the etiology of the disease”, she further added. Providing a different view of the disease and take a different approach to finding potential treatments may possibly help researchers get a better focus on what triggers or causes the said debilitating disease.

Source: MS Society UK

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