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Cure For Multiple Sclerosis? Liberation Procedure Moves Forward

Dr. Paolo Zamboni, who proposed a vascular cause (and cure) for MS last year.

For years, scientists have struggled to understand why the immune systems of multiple sclerosis patients attack their own bodies. With such a debilitating disease, a simple cause – and a simple cure – might seem too good to be true. In the past we’ve been covering new developments in the work of Dr. Paolo Zamboni, which suggests that a commonplace surgery might be enough to halt damage to patients’ immune systems. The so-called “liberation procedure” is gaining steam, causing controversy, and (most recently) attracting funding to investigate what could be a major step towards curing MS.

For those who haven’t read our previous two stories on the matter (here and here), Zamboni’s theory identifies poor blood drainage from the brain as the primary culprit in MS symptoms. The answer? An angioplasty, a simple surgery to improve the blood flow of narrow or obstructed vessels. Many MS sufferers have undergone the procedure with reported success, and many more are seeking it. Controversy surrounds Zamboni’s underlying theory, the inconsistency of results, and whether hospitals should offer the unproven technique.

Last month, the National MS Society and MS Society of Canada devoted $2.4 million to fund research into the liberation procedure.  The organizations announced that the money will be divided into seven research grants intended for research that explores the link between MS and what Zamboni considers its cause: “chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency,” or CCSVI. Research teams include a combination of experts in both MS and vascular tissues, working in tandem to investigate CCSVI and its role in the disease. To many, the awarding of this money – a decision made by many experts in the field – vindicates Zamboni’s theory, which has been the subject of considerable controversy since its publication last year.

A few additional updates: Since our last article, additional studies have supported the link between CCSVI and MS. Simka et al. published an article in April in the journal International Angiology, and found that 90% of MS patients also have some form of CCSVI. An Australian youtube user named kezzcass has been documenting her own amazing success following surgery on a youtube channel. Finally, there’s a web forum on CCSVI that was hosted by the American Academy of Neurology and the MS Society. It includes discussion by Zamboni, Zivadinov, and Dr. Aaron Miller of the National MS Society.  The video can be seen at the end of this story.

The University of Buffalo is one of several institutions researching the role of CCSVI in multiple sclerosis.

Background

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects over 2.1 million people across the world. Usually beginning in adulthood, immune cells begin to attack the body’s myelin, a fatty material that surrounds the axons of neurons in the brain. Myelin helps neurons to carry electrical signals through the nervous system; as myelin is destroyed in MS patients, a wide variety of physical and cognitive deficiencies begin to emerge. The symptoms vary depending on where in the brain the myelin damage occurs, but common problems include fatigue, loss of coordination, bowel and bladder disfunction, dizziness, and a range of cognitive and emotional changes.

There is no cure for MS, so most current treatments aim to mitigate the symptoms of the disease and modify its course over the lifetime. A variety of drugs are available that suppress the immune system and slow the process of demyelination – but many of the drugs require weekly injections, and carry difficult side-effects. Despite the relative success of treating MS symptoms with drugs, we still don’t understand why the immune system attacks the body’s own myelin – but Dr. Zamboni has a theory.

The Theory

Zamboni – whose own wife has MS – recognized that in many patients, the three veins responsible for draining blood from the brain (the two jugulars and the azygos) are tangled or constricted. He named this symptom “chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency,” or CCSVI. In a healthy adult, blood vessels in the brain are impermeable to many of the blood’s contents – the blood brain barrier protects the brain from potential harm (e.g. bacterial cells) and only gives passage to smaller molecules like oxygen, carbon dioxide, hormones, and so on. Zamboni hypothesizes that poor drainage caused by CCSVI might cause a reflux of blood into the brain that increases blood pressure. The results of this pressure are twofold. First, iron is deposited out of the blood and into the brain. Second, if blood vessels are stretched out, they can tear microscopically and leak immune cells into the brain. The immune system then attacks the iron deposits, and MS results.

This is where the liberation procedure comes in. Zamboni proposed that balloon angioplasty, a common technique for widening blood vessels, should alleviate the symptoms of MS.  Last year, he published a study of 65 MS patients who underwent the surgery; two years after the procedure, 73% of the subjects had no symptoms. Since his research was initially reported, many MS patients throughout the world have sought the liberation treatment from angioplasty surgeons.

Zamboni's theory remains controversial among experts.

But not everyone is convinced. Controversy has surrounded Zamboni’s highly publicized work since his initial study was released. The link between poor drainage and MS is far from perfect, as a collaborative study between Zamboni and Dr. Robert Zivadinov revealed: only 60% of MS patients showed CCSVI, compared with 43% of patients with different neurological disorders and 22% of healthy subjects. Many patients’ angioplasties had only short term success, with 47% of patients’ veins narrowing again within a year of surgery. Other experts of MS remain skeptical of Zamboni’s claims until more conclusive evidence supports his theory – something the new research grants will hopefully provide.

Legal concerns have also slowed the number of liberation procedures, as hospitals safeguard themselves against an unproven technique. Many hospitals’ lawyers have stopped the procedures until it has been proven within peer-reviewed processes, which has kept many hopeful MS patients from receiving the treatment. As with stem cells and other controversial procedures, this has led to an increase in medical tourism to countries outside the US.

The $2.4 million in research grants is promising – it shows that Zamboni’s theory is taken seriously enough to warrant further research. The concerns regarding his theory are very real, and should be addressed before the liberation procedure is regarded as some miracle cure. Hopefully new research will vindicate his approach; even if it doesn’t, probing his findings should help to clarify the origins of MS immune response, which is a step in the right direction.

[image credits: Alessandro Vincenzi, The Globe and Mail; The Multiple Sclerosis Resource Center; Bret Gundlock, National Post]

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24 comments

  • Kytael says:

    aspartame & other artificial sweeteners have been shown to be direct causes of MS, when patients stopped eating or drinking aspartame their sickness went away almost immediately. there’s a good movie on it called “sweet remedy”

      • Vanessa Sanches Carvalho says:

        I agree with you, it’s really dumb, I never used aspartame before, drink very little soda, but I do have a european ascendency, that I believe to be a cause to my MS appears into my life and the factor very weird is the fact that I had been born in Brazil, never had MS before, when I was with 23 yrs. old, I went to live in USA, state of Massachusetts and some years later, I present a first symptom until having the final diagonosis when I was with 30 yrs. old, so I think is because I lived for more then 10 yrs. far away fom the Equator, I hope that this liberation really develops quickly and bring us a cure to our MS. Hugs to all of my fiends, I wish you well. Vanessa

    • Lisa says:

      This is an urban myth which has been doing the rounds for many years. Its simply not true. If it were as simple as that we would see a whole lot more MS and similar diseases. Excessive amounts of sugar or any foods are not good for you but aspartame does not cause MS.

      • SO_of_MS_patient says:

        I would say in the past few years, the ‘urban myth’ of artificial sweeteners has been moved to a proven fact that it is harmful for the human body by various studies. My wife has MS and while I do not know of a study that shows a direct link between MS and artificial sweeteners, the Michigan Institute for Neurological Disorders, the clinic where my wife receives her treatment and medical care, has warned all of their patients not to use artificial sweeteners due to the MRI differences they see with their patients using them. They do MRI on their MS patients taking Tysabri ever 6 months, so I believe they would have the knowledge and technology to be far more believable than a company trying to get you to buy their product.

  • Keith Kleiner says:

    I’m pretty sure MS has been around long before the use of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners were widespread. Nice try though

    • Vanessa Sanches Carvalho says:

      Hi Keith, I believe too, I hd been diagnosed in Boston, Ma , MS had appearing many years before, even there is a movie called “Hilary & Jackie”, true biography about a very famous cellist with MS, how her life it as difficult on the 1950 – 1970 when there is no treatment for MS, when you see the movie, try not be sad, see how affortunate we are today to have the Interferon’s to help us.

      I wish you well, may God be with you.

    • Patricia W says:

      Hi Keith MS was diagnosed as a vascular disease in 1930 so I am sure they didn’t have artificial sweeteners then. Look on google re” the doctors and years re: the history of ms being diagnosed.

  • susan bowie says:

    have been dxed since 1993. i think i had a feeling something was wrong before the dx. i hope there will be some relief for some of us.

  • TheReviewer says:

    This makes me wonder how many other complex and ‘incurable’ diseases might have simple causes and solutions.

  • Derekdadey says:

    Just because these studies were not exact replications does not mean they are “junk science”. They used established methods of evaluating venous function and found no blockage.
    The results of these studies will likely be used to design better studies and we will get more rigorous data. No one is saying this is the final word – but these studies are a note of caution that the hype surrounding CCSVI is premature.
    It is true that Zamboni is a vascular surgeon, not a neurosurgeon. That was a mistake I carried forward from another report. But it is really irrelevant to any of my points. The vasculature of the brain is something that both vascular surgeons and neurosurgeons deal with, so it is an easy mistake to make. And in any case, it is irrelevant. Check this out.. http://www.ccsviclinic.ca/

  • Nausea Remedies says:

    I’ll back again for sure, thanks for great article :D

  • Rsamberg says:

    Dr. Aaron Miller,
    In my experience, the only thing the disease modifying drugs do, from my own experience, is to make the drug companies rich.

  • Rebecawatson57 says:

    I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis back in 1983. I can hardly walk now and it seems my condition worsens every day. When I first heard about the Liberation procedure and its results from a friend, I thought United States would be the first to conduct the trials. I could never imagine the corruption involved. I ended up applying for this simple procedure in Poland and waiting.. The other options were to get it done in India. After researching the internet extensively, I came across http://www.ccsviclinic.ca/ . They are screening for CCSVI in Fargo, ND and have very affordable packages for the Liberation procedure in India. I called (404)461-9560 and spoke to their nurse administrator Lisa whose priceless support made me realize that we are not alone in the fight against MS. They are screening within the US and Canada, their medical travel package includes flight arrangements and help with the visas, world class accommodation and meals within their hospitals, the liberation procedure, a stent if needed, medications necessary, a site-seeing tour, Pre-and post-procedure supervision, Full medical file including copies of charts, screens, CDs of Venograms, blood work, EKGs, etc. Post Procedure Screenings, follow-up and consultation with surgeons for the next 6 months and so many other provisions Lisa told me about, I can’t recall however you might be able to find out more on their site.. http://ccsviclinic.ca/?page_id=564 . They are providing all of this at just $13000 as compared to the other companies that charge something like $20000 just for the procedure. You may also contact Lisa by emailing her at [email protected] or calling her on (404)461-9560. I am getting liberated mid-October and I am so very thankful to everyone at CCSVI Clinic for making this happen!

    • Jenny says:

      Sorry to hear that you are so sick. Have you ever been tested for Lyme disease?The reason I ask is because the symptoms can be so similar, right down to the white matter lesions. Perhaps the Liberation Procedure isn’t being embraced too readily in Canada because the “powers that be” know that there are not as many people who actually have Lyme disease as they first believed. I honestly think that the reason the government is playing games with Lyme disease (they’re actually firing doctors for diagnosing and treating Lyme disease) is that they’re starting to realize that many people who have been told they have MS actually have Lyme. I would encourage anyone who is not benefiting from their MS meds to insist on being tested for Lyme. And don’t let them use the Elisa/Western Blot that the CDC insists on. Those are useless, unless you are a government attempting to hide something. Instead, demand a “Nested PCR,” which is almost sure to give an accurate diagnosis. The government is throwing a lot of people under the bus and it’s only a matter of time before they get caught.

      • Jenny says:

        I MADE A MISTAKE IN THAT FIRST POSTING – Sorry, but I meant to say that there may not be as many people with MS as the government is reporting – I flipped it around in my first posting.

  • Jessica forester says:

    The CCSVI Liberation Treatment could be the cure but fact remains that the rate of re-occlusion is stuck at 50% and MS patients being treated in the European and Asian countries end up suffering as they did, 3 months ago. While Big Pharmaceutical Corporations and governments in the US and Canada are coming up with new ideas to stop any advancements to the CCSVI theory (Like the superbugs, etc.), millions continue to travel to countries like India and Poland to get this simple procedure and no valuable data is recorded to support the CCSVI theory. Unless we get our position strong enough to support the CCSVI Theory, we will never be able to beat the Pharma Corporations or start the treatment here and many will keep suffering and dying even after having the procedure done. I lost my elder brother last month because of a blood clot in his stent. He got liberated 5 months ago in Poland. We need to prove to the government that this works. Non-profit organizations like the CCSVI Clinic http://www.ccsviclinic.ca/ are tirelessly working to develop safer protocols with teams of world renowned surgeons even though they are feeling the negative pressure from you know who. This Atlanta based Organization has started Clinical Trials for CCSVI and we need to support these groups because they are our only hope to fight for the truth. Without the valuable data that they are collecting offshore, the procedures will not be allowed here, in our own countries.

  • Anonymous says:

    It is estimated that the failure rate of the “liberation therapy” may be 50% or higher, even through the most experienced and best-known surgeons in Poland and Albany, NY. As more and more people receive the therapy there is growing concern amongst patients that the procedure needs to include a post-procedure protocol that is more effective than simply releasing the patient from the hospital or clinic within hours or a day of the procedure.
    CCSVI Clinic Physicians have applied for an International Ethics Board study approval entitled: “PROSPECTIVE, OPEN-LABEL STUDY OF THE SAFETY, EFFICACY AND RE-STENOSIS RATES IN MS PATIENTS WITH CCSVI UNDERGOING ENDOVASCULAR TREATMENT WHO RECEIVE AN ENHANCED HOSPITAL AFTERCARE PROTOCOL. Important previous studies on non-MS patients who have had the same venous angioplasty indicate that it’s critical to position and movement control patients post-procedure, monitor them for days afterward in the hospital with various imaging techniques, and re-treat if necessary. CCSVI Clinic is already sponsoring patients for this protocol with a 10-day stay in the hospital where patients will be imaged daily, post procedure. If there is evidence of re-occlusion, they will be taken back to the OR and re-treated. Past studies of non-MS patients with the same venous blockages have noted a cascade of failure points distally in venous vessels post angioplasty, and the hypothesis proposes that the study on MS patients will produce the same results. Once home, patients will be screened and interviewed at regular intervals by CCSVI Clinic Physician Researchers for several years after the treatment to study the changes and make comparisons between those who have followed the protocol and others who have had the procedure on an outpatient basis.
    It should be mentioned that our research is under much scrutiny and attack from elements that are trying to control the industry and the dialogue. A well-organized campaign to discredit CCSVI Clinic and our research is underway in the social media. We would ask you to have the independence of thought to see through their campaign of deceit.
    Regular research updates will be published on the CCSVI Clinic website http://www.ccsviclinic.ca/ . Questions about participation may be directed toward the CCSVI Clinic administration at 1-888-419-6855.

  • CCSVI Clinic says:

    It is estimated that the failure rate of the “liberation therapy” may be 50% or higher, even through the most experienced and best-known surgeons in Poland and Albany, NY. As more and more people receive the therapy there is growing concern amongst patients that the procedure needs to include a post-procedure protocol that is more effective than simply releasing the patient from the hospital or clinic within hours or a day of the procedure.
    CCSVI Clinic Physicians have applied for an International Ethics Board study approval entitled: “PROSPECTIVE, OPEN-LABEL STUDY OF THE SAFETY, EFFICACY AND RE-STENOSIS RATES IN MS PATIENTS WITH CCSVI UNDERGOING ENDOVASCULAR TREATMENT WHO RECEIVE AN ENHANCED HOSPITAL AFTERCARE PROTOCOL. Important previous studies on non-MS patients who have had the same venous angioplasty indicate that it’s critical to position and movement control patients post-procedure, monitor them for days afterward in the hospital with various imaging techniques, and re-treat if necessary. CCSVI Clinic is already sponsoring patients for this protocol with a 10-day stay in the hospital where patients will be imaged daily, post procedure. If there is evidence of re-occlusion, they will be taken back to the OR and re-treated. Past studies of non-MS patients with the same venous blockages have noted a cascade of failure points distally in venous vessels post angioplasty, and the hypothesis proposes that the study on MS patients will produce the same results. Once home, patients will be screened and interviewed at regular intervals by CCSVI Clinic Physician Researchers for several years after the treatment to study the changes and make comparisons between those who have followed the protocol and others who have had the procedure on an outpatient basis.
    It should be mentioned that our research is under much scrutiny and attack from elements that are trying to control the industry and the dialogue. A well-organized campaign to discredit CCSVI Clinic and our research is underway in the social media. We would ask you to have the independence of thought to see through their campaign of deceit.
    Regular research updates will be published on the CCSVI Clinic website http://www.ccsviclinic.ca/ . Questions about participation may be directed toward the CCSVI Clinic administration at 1-888-419-6855.

  • CCSVI Clinic says:

    It should be mentioned that our research is under much scrutiny & attack from elements that are trying to control the industry & the dialogue.We would ask you to have the independence of thought to see through their campaign of deceit. http://www.ccsviclinic.ca/?p=783Regular research updates will be published on the Clinic website. Questions about participation may be directed toward the Clinic administration at 888-419-6855.

  • Anonymous says:

    There is a difference between responsible reporting and what Melissa Martin chose to write about the CCSVI Clinic in this article. She was in possession of factual information and documents that put the CCSVI Clinic in a favorable light but chose to withhold the information she received from the physicains and researchers at CCSVI Clinic that would have conflicted with her agenda to smear our reputation in order to sensationalize her story. At no time did anyone from the CCSVI Clinic pressure patients into going to India for the Liberation Procedure. She should have considered that the one single person who made that claim clearly had her own agenda because she was disheartened by her ‘borderline’ results. We simply provide information to people about our enhanced hospital stay and aftercare program should a patient decide to have the procedure. You can’t pressure someone to make an important decision about their health and all of our literature clearly states that. These MS patients are more knowledgeable about the CCSVI condition and about the options for treatment than most physicians are. To suggest that they can be pressured into a decision to have the procedure done in India is ludicrous. Patients who have signed up to be part of our open-ended study on the safety and efficacy of an enhanced aftercare protocol to reduce the rate of re-stenosis versus having the procedure on an outpatient basis (which may be contributing to long term failure of the procedure) have done so to ensure that they are getting the best care possible and because they want to be part of the important work we are doing for MS patients. http://www.ccsviclinic.ca/

  • Anonymous says:

    There is a difference between responsible reporting and what Melissa Martin chose to write about the CCSVI Clinic in this article. She was in possession of factual information and documents that put the CCSVI Clinic in a favorable light but chose to withhold the information she received from the physicains and researchers at CCSVI Clinic that would have conflicted with her agenda to smear our reputation in order to sensationalize her story. At no time did anyone from the CCSVI Clinic pressure patients into going to India for the Liberation Procedure. She should have considered that the one single person who made that claim clearly had her own agenda because she was disheartened by her ‘borderline’ results. We simply provide information to people about our enhanced hospital stay and aftercare program should a patient decide to have the procedure. You can’t pressure someone to make an important decision about their health and all of our literature clearly states that. These MS patients are more knowledgeable about the CCSVI condition and about the options for treatment than most physicians are. To suggest that they can be pressured into a decision to have the procedure done in India is ludicrous. Patients who have signed up to be part of our open-ended study on the safety and efficacy of an enhanced aftercare protocol to reduce the rate of re-stenosis versus having the procedure on an outpatient basis (which may be contributing to long term failure of the procedure) have done so to ensure that they are getting the best care possible and because they want to be part of the important work we are doing for MS patients. http://www.ccsviclinic.ca/

  • Melvin Jevusca says:

    Great article, let me add one thing about the multiple sclerosis disease. As a part of the treatment, often the medical experts suggest the patient to follow a multiple sclerosis diet.

    To get comprehensive information about the diet, please visit http://healthcrafter.net/multiple-sclerosis-diet-works/2035

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