According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, more than 2.3 million people worldwide are believed to be living with the autoimmune disease known as multiple sclerosis, or MS for short. But because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not require physicians in the United States to report all new cases of the disease, it's difficult to pinpoint just how many of those cases reside within our country.
What we do know is that MS can be incredibly debilitating if left unchecked and untreated. Even treatments, sadly, do not wholeheartedly promise recovery from the damage this disease causes. But even though there is no cure, researchers continue to push the boundaries of science in hopes of finding relief for the millions of people living with the disease. And thanks to the work of a team of researchers at UCLA, a new and more accessible treatment may be available to women living with MS.
For those who don't know, the disease causes a person's own immune system to work against them, destroying perfectly good cells within the body. But in pregnant women, an increase in the hormone estriol suppresses the immune system, allowing the fetus to develop unharmed. Furthermore, because the woman's immune system is suppressed, the likelihood of further damage caused by flair ups was also reduced.
After considering this, Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl, a professor working in UCLA's Department of Neurology, wondered if estriol could be used as an effective treatment for all women with MS. After two rounds of testing, she and her team discovered it did in fact reduce the likelihood of relapses as well as foster recovery of already damaged cells.
Because estriol "has decades of safety behind it" and it is naturally occurring, researchers are hopeful that this could become a more accessible treatment for women with MS. Only time will tell though if this will become a reality for women in New Jersey, across the U.S. and the entire world soon.
Sources: Medical Xpress, "Safe form of estrogen helped multiple sclerosis patients avoid relapses in clinical trial," Nov. 30, 2015
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, "Multiple Sclerosis FAQs," Accessed Dec. 2, 2015