Risk factor connections
The race is on to find biological and environmental factors that may distinguish progressive MS.
Some research already suggests that risk factors
for progression include being male, having disease
onset after the age of 50, experiencing motor or
bladder symptoms at the beginning of the disease
and having more frequent relapses. Dr. Chitnis
and her team are researching clinical risk factors,
including some modifiable ones such as hormones
and vitamin D.
© CAROLE MURRY
meeting. “MRI reveals a lesion but doesn’t tell
you if it’s from inflammatory cells or lost neurons
Howard Weiner, MD, principal investigator at the
Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Neuro-
logic Diseases in Boston, has established the SUM-
MIT consortium, which brings together four major
academic MS centers. Together they will collect
information on risk factors, including background
and family history, vaccination and infectious dis-
eases history, tobacco smoking, diet and sun expo-
sure, and gender hormones and pregnancy.
Moreover, while MRI can identify lesions in the
white matter of the brain, it can’t see inside the
outer part of the brain—the gray matter—where
the nerve cells live. Some researchers suspect
lesions in the unseen gray matter may be responsible for MS-related cognitive troubles. “A lot of
studies have tried to correlate MS progression
with certain MRI measures such as gray matter
atrophy,” Dr. Chitnis acknowledged. “Although
it seems promising, it may not be quite ready for
On the other hand, the MRI scan may have more
potential in the future. “There are new ways of
setting up MRIs to probe different problems in the
brain and spinal cord, and we will have some new
molecular imaging techniques that will be very
specific,” said Daniel Reich, MD, PhD, head of
translational neurology at NIH’s National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
About the art
The images in “
Unlocking the Puzzle of Progression” come to us by
way of Todd Walbridge
of TM Design Corp. Walbridge recently launched
a line of MS T-Shirts and
coffee mugs, featuring
the work of 20 artists, all
of whom live with MS.
“I think it’s important that people know that it is
possible to lead a full life,” Walbridge said. “I’m not
trying to make it sound easy, but there is a lot of
support out there now.”
Both mugs and T-shirts sell for $14.95, with a
portion of the proceeds donated to the National
MS Society and other MS-related organizations.
Visit MSTShirts.com or call 1-800-836-2413
for more information.