Text Size: a  |   a 

A Controversial Cure of MS

September 21, 2015

An Italian doctor has been getting interesting results using a type of treatment for Multiple Sclerosis In an initial study, Dr. Paolo Zamboni took 65 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), performed a simple operation to unblock restricted blood-flow out of the brain – and two years after the surgery, 73% of the patients had no symptoms. Dr. Zamboni's thinking could turn the current understanding of MS on its head, and amazingly offer the 2.5 million people who suffer a complete cure.

It's been long known that there is no cure for MS, only treatments to keep the symptoms at bay. However, Dr. Zamboni had a unique way of looking at the disease, which allowed him to perform a simple treatment to grant patients relief from the disease.

He had the idea that many cases of MS are caused by a blockage of the pathways that remove excess iron from the brain. His plan was to clear out a couple of major veins to reopen the blood flow, and the root of the disease would be gone. He named the problem Chronic Cerebro-Spinal Venous Insufficeincy or CCSVI.

This revelation came as a result of his wife suffering from MS. He took it upon himself to read everything available about the disease and discovered that a buildup of iron could damage blood vessels in the brain.

He formed a hypothesis on how this could lead to MS: iron builds up in the brain, blocking and damaging these crucial blood vessels. As the vessels rupture, they allow both the iron itself, and immune cells from the bloodstream, to cross the blood-brain barrier into the cerebro-spinal fluid. Once the immune cells have direct access to the immune system, they begin to attack the myelin sheathing of the cerebral nerves – Multiple Sclerosis develops.

This may seem like a cut and dry case due to the results, but a study done by Dr. Anthony Traboulsee of the University of British Columbia disputes these claims. It showed that CCSVI was not prevalent within a lot of people, and only 1 of 65 MS patients who participated in the study had it.

"This was a big surprise to all of us," Traboulsee told reporters. "We were really expecting to find many more people with this feature." While CCSVI as defined by Zamboni doesn't exist, it's possible that patients reported improvements by happenstance through a different mechanism, Traboulsee speculated, such as if stretching a vein triggers nerves that improve symptoms or negate them altogether.

Meanwhile, even though in his opinion the study disproved the theory, Traboulsee will continue to conduct a blinded, randomized control trial of the treatment on 100 people in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal and Quebec City.