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Breakthroughs Offer Hope to MS Patients
Date:7/6/2008

Genetic advances, better drugs some highlights of fight against the disease

SUNDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- There's no one single way to suffer from multiple sclerosis.

Every patient exhibits different symptoms as the disease gnaws away at the nerve endings in the brain, the spinal cord and even the eyes.

Doctors aren't even sure what causes MS, or what makes one person more likely to get it than another.

"I have a patient who is 6 years old," said Dr. Daniel Kantor, director of the Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Florida. "I have a patient who is 71 years old. I have patients from all walks of life, all ages."

But, the recent discovery of a second gene linked to multiple sclerosis -- hailed as a major breakthrough -- is giving researchers hope that they are zeroing in on useful treatments -- and, ultimately, a cure.

In what is considered the most significant genetic breakthrough in MS research in three decades, scientists last year announced they had found a gene that increases the risk of developing the disease by 30 percent.

"This discovery is very significant, because it is hopefully the first of many, and after more than 30 years of finding nothing," said Dr. Jennie Q. Lou, professor of public health and internal medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"We will expect to find many more of these genes over the next few years. Either these genes, or genes related to them, may be an excellent target that researchers can use to develop treatments and cures for MS," she added.

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis are many and varied, as the disease attacks different parts of the nervous system.

One MS patient may have trouble walking, while another is wheelchair-bound. One person may experience terrible fatigue, while another might struggle with blurred or double vision. Still another might have slur
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