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What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

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Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the nervous system. It can cause disability and paralysis but usually starts with relatively mild symptoms such as numbness in the limbs. It is caused by a loss of a protein called myelin that is wrapped around nerve cells. This normally acts as a sort of insulator, like the plastic coating around copper wires used in electrical wiring systems.

If the myelin breaks down, the signals that should pass along and between nerves are severely interrupted and information can no longer pass between the muscles and limbs and the brain.

Multiple sclerosis appears to result from an autoimmune response. The body, for some reason that is not completely clear, starts to recognise the myelin protein as a 'foreign' protein and starts to destroy it, as it would an invading bacteria or virus. There is some evidence that people who develop multiple sclerosis may have been infected by a virus that produces a protein that 'looks' very similar to myelin, and this triggers the body's response.

Currently, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis.

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