Thursday, December 22, 2011

A terrible and beautiful vision

For all the support and signal boosting of the last two days: thank you. Thousands of people have now read my précis of the paper, by Dr. Angelique Corthals, that will be published tomorrow in the Quarterly Review of Biology.* That paper is a brilliant synthesis of what is known to be known about multiple sclerosis (MS). It takes the research we're all familiar with, the research that's been reviewed and replicated, that the medical establishment understands and is comfortable with, and fits in into a new pattern: MS is caused by faulty lipid metabolism.

This is a profound insight: MS is a metabolic disorder, not an autoimmune disease. It will change the way researchers approach the disease. It will change how doctors treat the disease. It will change the way people with MS live our lives. It will, one day--just possibly--lead to the eradication of MS.

As Angelique says, "When lipid metabolism fails in the arteries, you get atherosclerosis. When it happens in the central nervous system, you get MS." Think about that. Think about the fact that atherosclerosis is preventable and, sometimes, reversible. Now, so is MS.

It's difficult to explain what this means to someone with MS. I've spent nearly twenty years knowing that immunosuppression and -modulation didn't help my MS and never would but without the expertise to articulate exactly how and why. When I first read Angelique's rough draft earlier this year, it shook me to the core. I had a vision of ten years from now: a world without any new cases of MS.

It was a terrible and beautiful vision. Beautiful, because I'm so very glad for all those people for whom MS won't be a life squeezer, a life crusher, a life burden. Terrible, because at this stage I don't yet know how much better I can help myself become.**

Last night was the winter solstice. I thought, Tonight is the longest night, and tomorrow we turn towards the light. And that's how it feels.

Perhaps after the holidays I'll write about how I'm going to approach this new beginning. But for now, I want to thank you all again. Tomorrow there will be thousands of downloads of that paper. In the New Year, tens of thousands of people with MS all over the world will march into their doctor's offices and say, "Read this. Now, how are we going to take charge of this thing?" And it's all because you helped get the word out. So for those who have blogged, emailed, Facebooked, Google+'d, and Tweeted: thank you. Keep doing it. You are changing lives.

* I'll link to the paper as soon as it goes live. It will be free to all. It's a very technical paper, but if the précis isn't enough to hold you until tomorrow morning, drop a comment or email me with your address and I'll email you a copy.
** By making changes to diet, supplementation, and exercise. I also don't know how fast research will move on variations on statins, fibrates and other extant drugs.
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