24 October 2008

Hope for MS sufferers

It appears that a drug formerly used to treat leukemia, called alemtuzumab, may be a cure for MS. Nothing is final yet, but preliminary studies are looking quite promising. The article gets a little sciencey, so here's a quick summary:
Basically, MS is an autoimmune disease, which means your immune system gets confused and instead of attacking a disease, it attacks your own tissues. Different types of autoimmune disorders attack different body systems, MS happens to attack the cells in your brain responsible for normal movement and sensation, which results in sensations of numbness and burning as well as weakness and uncoordinated movement. Alemtuzumab will attack certain receptors on the main cells of the immune system (T and B cells), which basically wipes out the "attack cells" of the immune system so that they stop attacking your brain. The big thing that sets this drug apart from similar attempts in the past is that this drug leaves intact certain parts of the immune system which still allow you to fight diseases (not as well as you originally would have been able to, but enough).
This is a HUGE breakthrough for medicine- a completely unprecedented treatment for a disease previously thought to be incurable and degenerative. There are still some serious side effects to work out and it's only in phase II of testing, but here's hoping!

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