Friday, March 18, 2011

Bits and Pieces: Back, Once Again

Atwell Peak

Image via Wikipedia

Here's yet another edition of Bits and Pieces, in which I assemble various MS related (and sometimes non-MS related) materials for your reading and/or viewing pleasure. These are all items which have piqued my interest for one reason or another, which I feel the compulsive need to share with my loyal (or even disloyal) readers. I hope these items pique your interest also, as having one's interests piqued can really be the peak of one's day.

I use voice recognition software to "write" these posts, so in actuality I speak to them, and for some reason I'm experiencing much merriment when speaking the word "piqued", in addition to the fact that I think it's pretty neat that the software is differentiating between piqued and peaked and peeked. Okay, so I had to help it out that with that last bit, but it's entertaining me nonetheless…

Anyway, let's get on with it. Here's a peek at what has piqued my interest over the last couple of weeks. To the right is a picture of a pique peek peak.

  • CCSVI stuff: the International Society of Neurovascular Disease convened a meeting of some of the foremost CCSVI experts on March 14-15, in Bologna, Italy. Much important data was presented, including studies on the epidemiology of CCSVI and MS, the role of oxygenation and tissue drainage, the role of iron, advanced diagnostic imaging, the treatment of CCSVI, and development of animal models of CCSVI. Dr. Paolo Zamboni, who first put forth the CCSVI hypothesis, demonstrated new technology designed to improve the ease and accuracy of diagnosing CCSVI, in the form of a collar that can be placed on a patient's neck, which measures the difference in the volume of blood going through the jugular veins when measuring patients in an upright and then supine position. (Click here) for a summary of the conference findings, which will open up as a Word document. In my version of Word, the document opens up in a multipage format that makes it difficult to read. If you experience the same problem, simply go to the "view" menu and choose the "one page" option.

    From March 26-31, the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) will hold their annual meeting in Chicago, at which CCSVI will be a major topic of discussion. On the evening of Tuesday, March 29, the CCSVI Alliance will be holding a Doctor's Roundtable Discussion on CCSVI and MS, which will be open to the public. The panel includes a long list of some of the most notable names in CCSVI research and treatment, and the discussion, which will include questions from the audience, should be absolutely fascinating. Anyone in the Chicago area with an interest in CCSVI should make every effort to attend. (Click here) to register for this free event.

  • Researchers at Purdue University have discovered that the decades-old hypertension drug Hydralazine may delay the onset and reduce the severity of MS symptoms (click here). The scientists theorize that the drug works by blocking the action of a toxic compound called acrolein, which is found in automobile exhaust and cigarette smoke. Coincidentally (?), a few years ago the anti-hypertension (high blood pressure) drug Lisinopril also showed promise in the fight against MS (click here). Might the action of these two drugs, both of which regulate blood pressure, play into the CCSVI hypothesis? Common sense would seem to indicate so, but common sense would also lead you to believe that both of these drugs, having long ago been proven safe, would at this very moment be undergoing exhaustive testing to ascertain just how effective they could be in treating the scourge of Multiple Sclerosis.

    Unfortunately, both drugs are so old that they are off patent, meaning that they are very cheap and available as generics. Thus, pharmaceutical companies can't make gazillions of dollars marketing them to MS patients. Since most of the medical research in this country is funded by Big Pharma, which only throws money at research that has the potential of turning a huge profit, these drugs have a snowball's chance in hell of being given more than a cursory glance as possible MS treatments. In regards to studies into Lisinopril, the lead researcher, Dr. Steinman, had this to say:

    "Who's going to pay for it?" he asked. A standard proof-of-concept study with about 200 patients would cost in the vicinity of $20 million. ACE inhibitors are as inexpensive as any prescription drug at this time, so pharmaceutical companies won't see any profits from financing a study, he said.

    The line to the vomitorium starts behind me.

  • On a much happier note, many people don't realize it, but service dogs aren't only for the blind. These amazing pooches can be of considerable benefit to disabled MSers, as they can be trained to do a variety of tasks, including retrieving dropped items, turning on lights, pulling wheelchairs, preventing falls, and helping to combat depression. All that, and as part of the package you get a fuzzy best friend for life who will love you unconditionally. For more information, (click here).
  • A new online magazine, Atrium (click here), is dedicated to helping shift the thinking of a new generation of doctors and healthcare practitioners in this emerging age of widespread access to information and Internet social networking. These two factors are changing the patient-doctor dynamic, which in turn should change the way that medicine is practiced. Started by two extremely motivated Yale medical students, Atrium features articles, insights, and opinions on a wide variety of subjects, including not only medicine but also art, music, and philosophy. The editors have decided to include some Wheelchair Kamikaze essays in the mix, and I'm honored to have been chosen to represent a patient's point of view. I'd urge everyone to check out this new online resource, skipping over my essays to read the wealth of other fascinating material Atrium has to offer.
  • Readers of Wheelchair Kamikaze know of my fondness for photography, and I recently came across the story of Flo Fox, a photographer who was born partially blind and later developed Multiple Sclerosis, which robbed yet more of her vision as well as her mobility. In the 1970s, Flo Fox was a personality in the edgy downtown New York art scene, and had gallery and museum shows around the world. She rubbed elbows with Andy Warhol, appeared on late night talk shows, and was even featured on "Live, with Regis and Kathy Lee".

    By pure happenstance, Flo Fox appeared in a 2010 documentary about Joan Rivers, when Ms. Rivers delivered food to Fox's apartment while doing volunteer work for the group God's Love We Deliver. Now in her 60s, Fox lives in housing for the blind, but maintains her moxie and mischievous spirit. Looks like I'm only following in her wheel tracks, as it seems like Flo Fox was the original Wheelchair Kamikaze. (Click here and here) for more on the Flo Fox story, and feast your eyes on the videos below, one of which is a montage of her photos of 1970s New York City set to some very cool music, and the other a clip of her appearance with Regis and Kathy Lee, circa 1983.

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  1. The Chicago roundtable event is happening the evening of Tuesday, March 29th not the 26th as indicated below. Here is a link to the event details:

    Thanks for all you do for MS Mark,

  2. Wow, I like the collar thing for diagnosing CCSVI. I'll have to read the full report. I'd come across both the hypertension drug studies and it seems there must be some link. I would ask to try the drugs, not that my neuro would do it, but how else are we going to find out
    unfortunately I have low blood pressure so might not be a good idea. Bummer.

  3. Thanks for sharing Flo Fox with us! What an incredible lady! She would be a kindred spirit to you Marc. Maybe you will meet her someday.

  4. Chris-thanks for the correction, I changed the post to reflect it.

    Briana-yes, I also have low blood pressure (due to autonomic nervous system dysfunction), so I'm unsure how I'd react to the hypertension medications. Apparently, the doses used are low, but still…

    Mom-isn't the Flo Fox story incredible? Sucks that she'd been all but forgotten…