Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease that primes the immune system to attack the myelin sheath of neurons, interfering with the communication between the brain and the body. MS causes many symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, loss of balance and tremors. The physical and cognitive incapacitation caused by MS can lead to an average life expectancy of 5 to 10 years shorter than the average adult. Since MS can easily be mistaken for a plethora of other neurodegenerative diseases, it is particularly difficult to diagnose early.
There is currently no cure for MS; however, the National MS Society and other major organizations are actively working toward finding one. One of the most promising areas of MS research involves using disease-modifying therapies, which aim to slow down the progression of the disease and reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. There are currently more than 20 DMTs available, with each drug targeting a specific aspect of the immune system.
Another area of research involves the use of stem cells, which have the potential to repair the damaged myelin and regenerate nerve cells. Hematopoietic stem cell therapy is one such therapy in which stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow are grown and “taught” to not attack the patient’s nervous system before being put back into the patient. HSCT has shown promise in clinical trials, however there is still a lot of work to be done.
These experimental treatments are funded largely through grants and community fundraisers, which are all completely voluntary.
MS patients in the greater Indianapolis area have created multiple tight-knit communities that share their misgiving, their happiness, and their hope with each other. We, as a community, can give them much more happiness by showing our support and our love to an almost invisible group of people. By participating in awareness events, such as WalkMS or BikeMS, aimed at raising money for experimental treatments and for those afflicted by late-stage MS, we can much more effectively progress towards a world free of MS.
Ashilyn Joseph, Pragathi Arunkumar, Krishna Jay and Johnny Mortha of KeepOnSmyelin, a Carmel High School student group dedicated to MS awareness