Welcome! This blog contains research, information on lifestyle, nutrition, dietary supplements and health for those with MS, as well as continuing information on the understanding of CCSVI and cerebral hypoperfusion. This blog is informative only--all medical decisions should be discussed with your own physicians.

The posts are searchable---simply type in your topic of interest in the search box at the top left.

Almost all of MS research is initiated and funded by pharmaceutical companies. This maintains the EAE mouse model and the immune paradigm of MS, and continues the 15 billion dollar a year MS treatment industry. But as we learn more about slowed blood flow, gray matter atrophy, and environmental links to MS progression and disability--all things the current drugs do not address--we're discovering more about how to help those with MS.

To learn how this journey began, read my first post from August, 2009. Be well! Joan

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

MS News--It's deja vu, all over again

Following neurology headlines since Jeff's MS diagnosis 8 years ago--I've seen many exciting research developments in understanding the human brain.

Recent examples of game-changing research include
The discovery of the brain's lymphatic cleansing system, which occurs when we sleep.

The discovery of the brain's lymphatic vessels, which mean that the brain is not immune privileged, and immune cells are needed in the CNS to insure brain health.

And all of the discoveries made into the vascular connection to diseases of neurodegeneration published by the International Society for Neurovascular Disease (ISNVD)

Meanwhile, MS research spins on a hamster wheel of repetition and dismal lack of progress.  It's been the same, sad headlines for the past eight years.   Nothing about disease etiology.  There is a complete disconnect between what is happening in neuroscience, and what is happening in MS treatment.

Here are today's MS "News" headlines--- (we've seen these over and over again)

PML, the deadly reaction to the JC virus found in immune-compromised individuals, is now being diagnosed in patients on MS drugs Tecfidera, Gilenya and Tysabri.

White matter lesions are not meaningful in understanding MS progression, and gray matter disease is more closely tied to disability progression.

Salt, lack of vitamin D and environmental factors like smoking contribute to MS progression, but MS specialists are not sure why.  Even though cardiovascular researchers already know these factors all contribute to endothelial dysfunction.  The heart-brain connection is continually ignored by MS research.

And in a bumbling show of complete disregard for the cardiovascular connection to brain health, the MS Society of Canada asks Canadians to pledge to eat super-sized portions of french fries to "EndMS"!!!!!  You could not write this stuff, folks.   Simply unbelievable.

What I find most troubling is that nothing has changed the $20 billion dollar a year MS treatment machine.  Drugs with harmful side effects, which calm inflammation but DO NOT address gray matter loss or disease progression, continue to be prescribed as "gold standard" treatment.    Patients are not being told that lifestyle changes-- such as exercise, vitamin D supplementation and UV ray exposure, whole food nutrition, limiting processed foods and transfats, not smoking, and getting good sleep--are all scientifically shown to make a difference in disease progression and calm inflammation in a less risky way.  Advocates who try to help people understand this, like Matt Embry, are sent cease and desist copyright infringement letters by the MS Society.  And no one, with the exception of the ISNVD and Dr. Zamboni, and advocacy groups like CCSVI Alliance, Direct-MS and the NCS, is discussing the vascular connection to MS.

MS research labs are funded, MS specialists get their speaking and consultation fees from pharma, the stock market and investors continue to follow MS drugs, MS Society leaders are paid, funds are raised from people eating french fries---- money is being made off of MS patients.
Yet no one is pursuing disease etiology.

I've talked to many researchers over these past years, and they are all frustrated by the lack of initiative and funding available to them.

Jeff and I are traveling, working, back to our careers and lives.  I keep blogging, hoping that drawing attention to research on the vascular connection might help someone.  Every month or so, I check the MS research headlines, and see the same ol' same 'ol.  Deja vu, all over again.

In the next few months, I will be posting links to my new podcast.  It will feature interviews with doctors and researchers who are passionate and committed to helping people heal.  I'll have more information available as I get further along in the process.  It will be available, for free, on iTunes and linked on a webpage.

I do not want to see the same stagnating MS headlines and failed treatments eight years from now--and I know none of you do, either!  We owe it to this wonderful MS community, we owe it to our children and their children.  If you have ideas for doctors, researchers or topics you'd like to hear addressed, please leave me your suggestions! I'll be speaking to functional medicine doctors, researchers and advocates.

Let's all be the change we wish to see, and get off the hamster wheel,

Monday, July 27, 2015

New research: Flow means Go

We are just beginning to understand the brain's lymphatic vessels, and how this newly discovered system may be implicated in neurodegenerative diseases like MS.  It will be important to consider the mechanistic system which enables lymphatic drainage to mature and function.  In recent experiments conducted with mice, veins are implicated in lymphatic flow.  In fact, when mice had veins that did not drain, but had a reflux of blood flow---like what we see in CCSVI---lymph stopped flowing.  And lymph vessels stopped forming correctly, due to endothelial dysfunction.

From a press release from the Perelmen School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Kahn Lab-- on research published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation's August issue:

Flow means "go" for proper lymph system development
PHILADELPHIA--The lymphatic system provides a slow flow of fluid from our organs and tissues into the bloodstream. It returns fluid and proteins that leak from blood vessels, provides passage for immune and inflammatory cells from the tissues to the blood, and hosts key niches for immune cells. How this system develops hasn't been well understood, but now researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found from experiments in mice that the early flow of lymph fluid is a critical factor in the development of mature lymphatic vessels.  

The project was prompted in part by recent studies of cultured lymphatic vessel endothelial cells that suggested that fluid forces could be an important factor in the maturation of lymphatic vessels. But there was no straightforward way to test this hypothesis in live animals. 
"No one had been able to come up with a way to stop lymph flow in embryonic animals, without preventing their lymphatic vessels from developing in the first place," said first author Daniel T. Sweet, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Kahn Laboratory.

In humans and other mammals, the lymphatic system is a low-flow system that, unlike the blood circulatory system, has no central pump. Instead it relies on muscular contraction of the mature lymphatic vessel wall and small valves in lymphatic vessels to squeeze fluid along and prevent backflow.

Larger collecting lymphatic vessels receive many small inflows from lymphatic capillaries in surrounding tissues. "You can't just close one of the vessels to block flow downstream--there are many other tributaries coming in," said Sweet.
The solution to testing the role of flow in developing lymphatic vessels turned out to be a line of transgenic mice, developed earlier by the Kahn laboratory. Lacking a gene called Clec2, the mice fail to produce a certain receptor on blood platelets, with a remarkable result: veins that normally help drain the lymph system leak back into it. Like an ocean tide surging into a river, this upstream flow of blood stops the usual downstream flow of lymph.

What's more, the researchers found that smooth muscle cells, which normally form a thin lining in mature lymphatic vessels, and perform contractions that help lymph flow, instead formed an abnormally thick lining, as if the usual signal to shut off cell proliferation were missing. 
"We started off thinking that flow might have a role just in valve formation, but ended up realizing that flow is really controlling all aspects of the maturation of these lymphatic vessels," said Sweet.

If flow is essential for a healthy lymphatic cleansing system---which we now know is part of the brain as well as other organs---the lack of venous drainage for the brain and spine could have disaterous affects on immune cells and metabolite cleansing processes. And reflux and slowed flow of venous blood in the jugular veins--as noted in CCSVI--could be shutting down the lymphatic drainage system of the brain.  Endothelial dysfunction, which has also been noted in MS, also plays a role in the cessation of lymphatic flow.  Flowing fluids create shear stress, and are needed for healthy endothelial cells.  It's a virtuous cycle.

Venous flow matters. Jugular flow matters. Lymphatic vessel flow matters.  The basic science is being established.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New research: MS as a disease of Endothelial Dysfunction

We have a brand new peer-reviewed paper from the researchers of the ISNVD which is considering the vascular connection to MS.  It is called:
"Blood circulating microparticle species in relapsing–remitting and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. A case–control, cross sectional study with conventional MRI and advanced iron content imaging outcomes" This paper is published in the Journal of Neurological Sciences.

The researchers looked at serum markers of healthy individuals and compared them to people with MS. (Can I just inject a "Hallelujah" here?  This was my dream eight years ago, and it is now a reality.)  What they found were that in people with MS, there are circulating microparticles in the blood that aren't found in healthy people.  These markers  (CD31+/CD51+/CD61+/CD54+)  are microparticles which are shed from the lining of the damaged endothelium.  We see the same markers in cardiovascular disease.  These markers are associated with coronary artery disease, hypercoagulation, thrombosis (clotting) and stroke.

Endothelial microparticles (EMP) are shed by dying and injured endothelial cells.  They cause hypercoagulation, inflammation and contribute to vascular disease.   They slow blood flow.

It's been eight years since I first put together research on MS as a disease connected to blood flow and the vascular system.  What I saw in Jeff's blood results when he was diagnosed during his first severe flare---hypercoagulation, high c reactive protein, high inflammatory markers---looked to me like a vascular reaction caused by endothelial dysfunction.  I sent the research I compiled to university researchers, and created a nutrition and lifestyle program for Jeff, to address this issue.  My hope was that he could find stability in his disease process, by reducing the impact of vascular endothelial dysfunction.  I saw that cardiovascular researchers, like Dr. John Cooke, were having great success with their heart patients, and that encouraged me!  And sure enough, after three months on the Endothelial Health Program, Jeff's serum markers of endothelial dysfunction were lowered, and his MS stayed in remission.

What I saw in Jeff's serum markers was real.  Although his neurologist claimed it had "nothing to do with MS"---it appears that wasn't true, and Jeff is not alone.  These markers were shown to be correlated with lesions and brain atrophy in MS using SWI and MRI scans.

Here is the conclusion from the researchers:  These results indicate that circulating microparticles' profiles in MS may support mechanistic roles for microvascular stress and injury which is an underlying contributor not only to MS initiation and progression, but also to pro-inflammatory responses.

This means that stress and injury to the endothelial lining, also known as endothelial dysfunction, may be a contributor to MS initiation and progression.

The good news is that there are things we can all do today to reduce endothelial dysfunction,  cellular stress and injury and bring these serum markers down.  The hope is that by helping the endothelium heal, we can limit microparticle shedding into the blood, and reverse this inflammatory process.

What would be the next step?  Retest the microparticle levels in pwMS after they have been on the endothelial health program for months/years---and see if this correlates to a slowing or stopping of MS disease progression.  If Jeff is any indication, there is great hope. 

Here's the Endothelial Health Program.

Talk to your own doctor, see if it might be something you can do.  I am not a doctor, so it's always best to consult one before beginning a new regimen!  Keep an eye on your blood levels of Crp, hypercoagulation, d-dimer, AST and ALT, and serum cholesterol--as well as vitamin D and B12 levels.  

Keep learning, keep moving and keep hoping!  More answers ahead,