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    You are here : Home » About MS » Causes of MS

    Causes of MS

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    Causes of MS?Inspite of the vast amounts of research which is still going on, no one yet knows what causes MS.

    What is known, however, is that MS is not contagious - you cannot catch it from someone.

    It is thought that various environmental factors may trigger an inborn susceptibility to MS. This is known as a genetic predisposition to the illness.

    This is different from a genetic or hereditary illness, which is directly passed on from parent to child. In the case of MS this does not happen. All that having a family member with MS does is increases your likelihood of developing MS from around 1 in 1000 to around 1 in 50. It therefore makes you more predisposed to the illness but it is still highly unlikely that you will actually develop it. Also if MS were a genetic illness, then in the case of identical twins (who have an identical genetic make up), if one twin developed MS, then we would expect the other one to get MS too. In actual fact though only 20-30% of all identical twins both develop MS. That is why there are thought to be various environmental factors also involved in the development of MS in these genetically susceptible individuals.

    Possible Causes

    Amongst other environmental factors, which could trigger this attack, are diet, stress, trauma, nutrition, hormones, and sunshine and vitamin D or latitude. Such factors may cause this inappropriate activity of the immune system - the body's defence mechanism - causing the destruction of myelin. Factors associated with MS may be more likely to occur in Northern Europe, Canada, the Northern States of the USA, New Zealand and Tasmania since these are the places where the incidence of MS is highest.

    MS an "autoimmune" illness?

    Current conventional thinking suggests MS results from an autoimmune process in which immune cells (T cells) mistake myelin, the fatty coating around nerve cell fibres in the brain & spinal chord, for a foreign invader and attack it.

    The autoimmune attack is believed to occur through a process called "Molecular Mimicry".

    "Molecular mimicry" means that part of a molecule of a given protein closely resembles a part of another totally different protein. Because one protein can mimic another in this way the immune system can think it is attacking a foreign body when in actual it is actually self-tissue it is attacking. The reason why and as to how this process occurs is not yet known.

    A viral trigger may play a role in the cause of MS in some way.

    Although no specific viral triggers have yet been isolated it suspected that infection with one or more childhood illnesses (e.g. Epstein-Barr, [human herpes virus 6] HHV-6) could be involved in the development of MS in later life.

    Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI)

    During 2009 a new theory on the possible cause of multiple sclerosis was reported by Dr Paolo Zamboni, Director Vascular Diseases Center, University of Ferrara, Italy.

    Further clinical trials are in process to verify Dr. Zamboni's CCSVI theory in relation to MS and  the proposed "Liberation Procedure" treatment.

    For more information on CCSVI and the "Liberation Procedure" treatment please visit the MSRC's CCSVI pages and the Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) Research page

    Many influential people disagree over the possible causes of MS. Views deemed controversial by some, are thought by others to be close to the truth.

    Further Information

  • Research into possible causes of MS

  • © Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre (MSRC)

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