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Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that affects the Central Nervous System (CNS);  MS is considered an autoimmune disease that most often affects people between the ages of 20 and 40.  In MS, the immune system attacks myelin and oligodendrocytes, the cells that make myelin;  the cause(s) of MS is unknown.  Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), multiple sclerosis (MS), or Parkinson's disease (PD) are characterized by progressive loss of neurons which, over time, leads to neurodegeneration and resulting disability.
  Click on the image thumbnail (right) to see a larger image of a 3D model of  docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a separate window.

Cell membranes consist of a bilayer primarily composed of various phospholipids, cholesterol, and  integral (imbedded) proteins that function as cell-surface receptors, enzymes, and various transporters.  The fatty acid (FA) composition of phospholipids determines biophysical (and functional) characteristics of membranes (e.g., membrane "fluidity"), and plays an important role in overall cellular integrity, and intra and intercellular communication (signaling).  Furthermore, there is abundant literature evidence (see below) that essential fatty acids (EFAs), and especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)1 and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)2 (see Fig. 1), play fundamental role in development and proper functioning of the nervous system; consequently, the EFA composition of membrane phospholipids likely plays a direct role in a variety of cellular and multicellular processes, including inflammation and immunity, with implications for neurodegenerative diseases such as MS and PD.  The links below provide recent literature overview of MS and related topics.

Figure 1. Chemical structure of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA);  DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid with 22 carbons and six cis double bonds (22:6n-3).

  For a review of the unique properties of  docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), see a review article: "Docosahexaenoic acid: membrane properties of a unique fatty acid" Chemistry and Physics of Lipids 126(2003) 127. Stillwell, W., and Wassall, S.R.   Link to: PubMed

  1Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid with six cis double bonds and 22 carbons (22:6n-3).
2Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA is an omega-3 fatty acid with five cis double bonds and 20 carbons (20:5n-3).

Besides PUFAs, other essential nutrients and vitamins are likely important in MS.  A recent study3, together with other published literature indicates the beneficial effect of vitamin D on MS and other autoimmune diseases, as well as it's overall role in immunology, specifically it's effect on T cell-mediated immunity, emphasizes it's pivotal role in study of the etiology of MS and other autoimmune disorders.

Biosynthesis of the "active" form of vitamin D is a multi-step process that requires (non-enzymatic) ultraviolet (UV) irradiation and thermal reaction steps to yield vitamin D3, which then undergoes further (enzymatic) reactions to yield an active form of vitamin D called:
a,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1a,25-(OH)2-D3], see Figure 2.

3See the recent research study results from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health entitled: Vitamin D intake and incidence of multiple sclerosis. Munger K.L., Zhang S.M., O'Reilly E, Hernan M.A., Olek M.J., Willett W.C., and Ascherio A. Neurology. 2004 Jan 13;62(1):60-5. 
 Link to PubMed Abstract.


MS References (2003)    (826 References)

For convenience, below are references sorted by First Author Name from the above "MS References (2003)" list of references:

A    B    C    D    E- F    G    H - J    K    L    M    N - O    P - Q    R    S    T - V    W - Z

MS Review References (2007)

MS Review References (2006)

MS Review References (2005)

MS Review References (2004)

MS Review References (2003)

MS Review References (2002)

MS Review References (2001)

Please follow the various links below to access additional references; please note that the links below lead to published references selected by the keyword(s) associated with a given link; e.g., the "microglia reviews 2003" link below contains 48 references found using the search keywords "microglia" and selecting for "review" references published in 2003.

bullet Cortisol reviews 2003  (57 references)
bulletDocosahexaenoic acid (DHA) reviews  (121 references)
bulletEicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) reviews  (83 references)
bullet Fish Oil reviews  (51 references)
bulletInnate immunity reviews 2003  (170 references)
bulletMicroglia reviews 2003  (48 references)
bullet MS and nitric oxide (NO)  (22 references)
bullet MS and stress  (58 references)
bullet Neurodegeneration reviews 2003  (57 references)
bulletNeuronal injury reviews 2003  (82 references)
bulletNitric oxide (NO) reviews 2003  (377 references)
bulletOmega-3 fatty acids reviews 2003   (39 references)
bulletRelaxation response (RR) reviews  (46 references)
bullet Toll-like receptors reviews 2003  (53 references)


  High Intake of Vitamin D Linked to Reduced Risk of
Multiple Sclerosis

From the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health
Monday, January 12, 2004

From MEDLINEplus News by Date:
MEDLINEplus: Fortified Foods Could Spread Fish Oil's Benefits
(Reuters Health; Friday, January 2, 2004)

Nutrition Source Web Site Offers the Latest News and Research on Diet and Health from Trusted Authority
(From the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health; Thursday, January 2, 2003)

From Harvard's Focus:
Glial Cells Critical for Peripheral Nervous System Health
(October 24, 2003)

From Harvard's Focus:
Link Strengthened Between MS and Epstein-Barr
(April 18, 2003)

Old Drug, New Use: New Research Shows Common Cholesterol-Lowering Drug Reduces Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms in Mice
 NINDS News & Events; Monday, January 06, 2003

Harvard Gazette: New multiple sclerosis drugs found
(June 13, 2002)

Brain Produces New Cells in Multiple Sclerosis
NINDS News & Events; Tuesday, February 26, 2002

MS Clinical Trials Confirm Approach, Demonstrate Need to Refine Targeted Peptide Therapy
NINDS News & Events; Sunday, October 01, 2000

Links to other web sites of interest to MS:

EFA Education

The Fish Foundation

Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
(From AHA Recommendation )

International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL)

Multiple Sclerosis Resources
(from NINDS Organization Sub-Listing)

Multiple Sclerosis: Hope Through Research

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)


NIH: Office of Diatary Supplements

NIH: Special Interest Groups

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Multiple Sclerosis Information Page

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Videocast on Essential Fatty Acids
( http://efaeducation.nih.gov/sig/video.html )

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