Brain cells under the microscope

Clusters of brain cells

Thousands of scientists are undertaking research into all aspects of MS, furthering our understanding of the disease and how to treat and manage it.

MS is an exceptionally difficult disease to research for a number of reasons:

The cause of MS is unknown, though it is generally believed to be a combination of genetic, immunological and environmental factors. However, because it often takes many years for someone to be diagnosed, and because there are so many variables, it has so far been impossible to determine a specific cause or trigger.

The effects are within two of the most inaccessible parts of the body, the brain and spinal cord. It is only since the advent of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in the early 1980s, that scientists have actually been able to view the actual lesions within the brain and spinal cord.

There is no single pattern to the disease and the course of the disease is unpredictable. The number and position of lesions on a patient’s central nervous system does not necessarily correlate with their relapse occurrence or level of disability. There are no definitive tests for the disease.

For all these reasons it is hard to compare people’s experiences scientifically. In order to research disease patterns and the effectiveness of new treatments, extensive placebo-controlled clinical trials are required.

Despite these difficulties, a wide range of research is taking place by thousands of scientists and researchers around the world. For instance, the MS International Federation is a founder member of the Progressive MS Alliance, which is investing in research into progressive MS.

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