Blood Vessel Condition Tied To MS

MRI scan: This image shows the brain of a patient who is suffering from multiple sclerosis. MS is due to the destruction of the myelin sheaths around the axon nerve fibres of the brain and spinal cord. This is seen in the several large demyelinated lesions (black and orange)

A blood vessel condition that causes narrowed head and neck veins may be linked to Multiple Sclerosis, according to a new analysis of past studies.

But the report, funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research, suggests more research is needed to be sure if there really is a connection, Reuters reports. So far, researchers could only find eight studies that have looked at how common the condition, known as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI, is in people with and without MS.

"The message in some ways I'm sure is kind of frustrating," said Dr. Andreas Laupacis, the lead author of the new report from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Reuters reports. "There's some tantalizing evidence that there might be something here, but we still don't know."

The hypothesis that MS, typically thought to be an immune system disorder, may actually be caused by blood vessel changes was first proposed in 2009, Reuters reports.

Since then, some MS patients have demanded a risky treatment for the blood vessel condition, prompting researchers to clamor for more solid evidence of the connection.

Laupacis said that more research is being done that should further clarify how CCSVI and MS are related, Reuters reports. But even if the narrowed blood vessels do show up more frequently in people with MS, though, it doesn't mean that a procedure to prop open those vessels, called liberation surgery, would also be a cure for MS symptoms.

"Just the fact that (CCSVI) is more frequent in people with MS, it might mean that it causes MS. It might mean that it's a consequence of MS," Laupacis said, as reported by Reuters. "It's a critical next question to be grappled with," said Dr. Robert Fox, an MS researcher from the Cleveland Clinic, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, as repotred by Reuters. "If there is an increased risk of CCSVI in patients with MS, what do we make of it?"
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