Since I was way too young to listen to his albums and watch his films, Richard Pryor has been my favorite comedian. Despite the fact that he spoke in the patois of the street and cursed a great deal, his humor was not scatological; in fact, his comedy insights were often anecdotal in nature, and imbued with a great deal of knowledge about the human condition. It broke my heart when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), and we watched helplessly as he devolved from a once-vibrant, verbose slickster to a wheelchair-bound infirm who had difficulty speaking.

Thanks to healthcare IT, new findings could help shed some light on what actually causes MS – and how it may one day be cured.

Last month in a newly published paper, medical researchers at FONAR Corporation reported a diagnostic breakthrough in MS, based on observations made possible by the company’s FONAR UPRIGHT Multi-Position MRI. The findings reveal that the cause of MS may be related to earlier trauma to the neck, which can result in obstruction of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), produced and stored in the central anatomic structures of the brain known as the ventricles. Since the ventricles produce a large volume of CSF each day (500 cc), the obstruction can result in a build-up of pressure within the ventricles, resulting in leakage of the CSF into the surrounding brain tissue. This leakage could be responsible for generating the brain lesions of multiple sclerosis.

The paper, “The Possible Role of Cranio-Cervical Trauma and Abnormal CSF Hydrodynamics in the Genesis of Multiple Sclerosis,” appears in the journal Physiological Chemistry and Physics and Medical NMR (Sept. 20, 2011, 41: 1-17). It is co-authored by MRI researchers Raymond V. Damadian, who invented the MRI, and David Chu.

The disease results in the destruction of the coverings, or myelin sheaths, that insulate the nerve fibers of the brain. The destruction prevents the nerves from functioning normally and produces the symptoms of MS. The destruction is the origin of the lesions seen on the MRI images.

But, unlike nerve tissue, the myelin sheaths can regenerate – once the cause of their destruction is eliminated. The paper suggests that surgical or biomechanical remediation of the obstruction of the flow of CSF in the cervical spine could relieve the increased CSF pressure within the ventricles and eliminate the resultant leakage of fluid into the surrounding brain tissue and the inflammation of the myelin sheaths that it generates. Once the leakage has been stopped, the myelin sheaths could be repaired by the body’s myelogenesis process with the prospect of a return to normal nerve function.

As someone who suffers from a neck injury, these findings make me nervous; yet it’s because of incredible discoveries such as this that I remain cautiously optimistic about the future of healthcare IT.

Enjoy the issue.



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