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Tom Li 30/03/2011

Biology Issue Report

Problem: Relapsing/Remitting Multiple Sclerosis in the UK

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological condition in

young adults in the UK, affecting around 85000 people 1. The
Relapsing/Remitting variation of Multiple Sclerosis accounts for
around 80% of all cases of MS; for this reason I have chosen to
study this particular type of the condition.

About Multiple Sclerosis: MS is

an autoimmune condition affecting
the Central Nervous System (CNS);
the Central Nervous System (the
brain and spinal cord) is
responsible for controlling both
conscious, such as movement and
thought, and unconscious bodily
activities, such as regulating
balance, homeostasis (maintaining
internal stability, such as core
temperature) and reflex actions.

The CNS is made up of thousands

of neurons and nerve fibres. Nerve
fibres (or axons) run from each
nerve cell to receptors in the skin,
muscle cells and internal organs,
and carry electrical messages to
and from the central nervous system. Each nerve fibre is coated in a
substance called myelin (see Figure 2); Myelin helps messages from
the brain to run through the nerve fibres smoothly to the rest of the
body. However in sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis, the Myelin becomes
damaged, disrupting in exchange of these messages (see Figure 3.

Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune condition; in a condition such as

this, the body’s immune system mistakes your own body’s tissue for
a foreign body, and fights it as it would a virus or infectious bacteria.
With Multiple Sclerosis, the body’s immune system attacks the
myelin surrounding the nerve fibres, leaving scars or legions; the
actual nerve fibre itself may also be attacked in this way and it is
this nerve damage that may potentially cause disability over time.

This damage to the myelin and nerve fibres

can have a devastating affect on the body:
The most common symptoms of multiple
sclerosis include:
- Visual Problems: In 25% of cases,
inflammation of the optic nerve, which

Tom Li 30/03/2011

transmits visual information to the brain, can cause pain behind

the eyeball, colour blindness, or in some cases complete loss of
vision. (See Figure 4)
- Muscle spasms: damage to the muscle-connecting nerve fibres
can cause muscles to contract tightly and painfully (spasm).
Muscles may also become stiff and resistant to movement,
drastically reducing mobility