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Until recent decades, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) meant a lifetime of potentially life-threatening symptoms. Though a cure has yet to be found, as of 2011, one treatment is slowly gaining ground as a revolutionary approach to fighting this largely misunderstood disease. In the mid-1990s, Italian doctor and professor Paolo Zamboni, who was seeking a cure for his MS-stricken wife Elena Ravalli, used complicated sonography technology to discover distinct vein blockages in the skulls of just MS patients. He called this condition chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), which he believed would explain several of the more common early MS symptoms like lethargy, numb areas, vertigo and even temporary blindness. Shortly after this find, Zamboni began treating the condition with a version of angioplasty surgery called liberation therapy.
Zamboni, a vascular surgeon who was teaching at Italy's University of Ferrara, noticed in his early research that MS patients all had blockages in the veins responsible for carrying blood back to the heart from the head. He then used a few types of ultrasound machines, employing Doppler radar technology, to confirm these exact locations, called strictures. Further study led Zamboni to the discovery that these blockages were rich in iron and largest in patients with the most advanced MS.
This knowledge has led many scientists in the early 21st century to begin thinking of MS as a disorder of the vascular system and not immunity. Zamboni created liberation therapy to make use of his discovery — first, by treating his wife and then thousands across the globe. Several case studies have shown that the recurrence of MS symptoms and quality of life has improved for a vast majority of patients who have undergone the procedures. Though liberation therapy has been adopted with optimism in many countries throughout the world, other governments are progressing with more skepticism, waiting for more definitive results and perhaps less potential for malpractice.
The liberation therapy that Zamboni created to address his new discovery is similar to the angioplasty surgeries used to treat blockages of the heart's aortic passages. Generally, this involves inflating a balloon-like device at the site of the stricture, in an effort to stretch the vein. This then lessens the effect of the blockage and restores usefulness to the vein.
Since no cure for MS exists as of 2011, a regimen of other physical therapies and prescription regimens are employed to at least contain the progression of the disease and fight its many symptoms. According to the U.S. National Multiple Sclerosis Society, nearly 10 prescription drugs have been proven to at least stall the progression of MS, from Avonex® to Tysabri®. Any number of other medications also have been proven to battle symptoms, including corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation during especially grueling bouts with the disease.