Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects 2.5 million people worldwide, including 400,000 Americans. The National Institutes of Health describes MS as a nervous-system disease impacting the brain and spinal cord. It damages the myelin sheath, the material that surrounds and protects nerve cells, often leading to irreversible degeneration of the nerve cells themselves. This damage slows down or blocks messages between the brain and body, causing a variety of disabling and sometimes painful symptoms, including blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness.
MS is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the patient’s own immune system attacks the nerve tissue. There is no full understanding of the cause and mechanism of the disease, and while a variety of effective treatments have been shown to reduce some symptoms, and, in some cases, arrest the progress of the disease, so far there is no cure. However, at the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York (Tisch MSRCNY), director Dr. Saud Sadiq, M.D., and his team are tirelessly at work trying to track down answers and a cure.
An independent, private, nonprofit research entity dedicated exclusively to research into the cause, treatment, and remedy of MS, Tisch MSRCNY grew out of the former MS Research and Treatment Center at New York’s St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital Center. Together with their clinical affiliate, the International Multiple Sclerosis Management Practice (IMSMP), the facility devotes approximately 35,000 square feet to the latest in research equipment and technology designed to accelerate the pace of MS research, treatment, and care. The close relationship of the research center and the clinical practice speeds the translation of basic science into clinical practice and helps to test new treatments for MS. Tisch MSRCNY is supported entirely by grants and private philanthropy, and is the only center of its kind in the world.
Sadiq, a board-certified neurologist, provides direction and oversight for all of the center’s research. The 18-station central laboratory facility is the research hub of the MS Center. Its open design allows researchers to communicate and collaborate on the full scope of research studies, including stem cell therapeutics, protein biochemistry, glial cell biology, and molecular biology. Other facilities include the stem cell culture laboratory, the pathology laboratory, the Lynn Seidler Microbiology Laboratory, the FACS lab for flow cytometry, the Berlin Electron Microscope Laboratory and Ruder Family Light Microscope laboratories, the Peller Microbe Identification Laboratory, and P3 containment unit, and the Brad & Kammi Reiss Family PCR Laboratory.
In October 2012, MSRCNY held its 15th annual Free Patient Symposium at the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, where it shared the recent findings of the research center with 600 or so patients, caregivers, and family members, some of whom had traveled 500 miles to attend.
To name a few of the talented and passionate speakers who shared their findings: There was
Fozia Mir, Ph.D., who educated the audience on oxidative stress, which can cause tissue injury, inflammation and cell death and has been implicated in MS. Mir and her team have located two bio-markers, isoprostane and neuroketal, which they feel might be attributing to oxidative stress. Dr. Massimiliano Cristofanilli reported on his work with mice in proving his hypothesis that the agent or agents responsible for the loss of myelin and progressive neurodegeneration characteristic of progressive forms of MS are present in patients’ cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and are capable of replicating the disease’s pathophysiological phenotype in cell culture and in mice. Deneb Bates, N.D., spoke of nutrition and the value of certain spices and foods — turmeric, broccoli, and onions, and just about anything laden with antioxidants — in reducing inflammation.
Sadiq and his associate Dr. Jerry Lin related their latest activities in finding the cause of MS. Dr. Lin and his team have been tracking antibodies found in the spinal fluid of a sampling of MS patients. These antibodies are produced within the brain and spinal cord and are closely related to each other, suggesting that they have a common target. These oligoclonal antibodies are important to study, because in every condition other than MS in which similar antibodies are found, such as in measles, they are targeted toward the cause of the illness.
Sadiq and Lin believe that if they can discover what these oligoclonal antibodies in MS are targeting, it may well be the cause of MS.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of Brain World Magazine.