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What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, unpredictable inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. In MS, the body’s own immune system attacks and damages the myelin sheath that surrounds, insulates, and protects the axons of brain and spinal cord. This leads to demyelination, a process that compromises the ability of the nerve cells to transmit messages for a desired action from the brain to various parts of the body through the spinal cord. As the nerve coverings are damaged as a result of this demyelination, the nerve impulses either slow down or stop. MS is a progressive disease where the nerve damage will worsen over time leading to a permanent loss of axons and nerve cells. There is no known cause for the disease, but it is thought that MS results from a combination of genetic, environmental and infectious factors. There are 5 types of MS, outlined in the table below, and the disease is typically diagnosed via MRI and spinal tap to assess cerebrospinal fluid for certain protein markers. For more information on MS, please visit: National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
 
 

MS Type

Characteristics

Relapsing – Remitting MS

Symptom flare-ups followed by recover; stable between attacks.

Secondary – Progressive MS

Second Phase of RMSS; treatments may delay this phase.

Primary – Progressive MS

Gradual but steady accumulation of neurological problems

Progressive – Relapsing MS

Progressive course from onset; combined with symptom flare-ups.

Malignant MS

Rapidly progressive disease course