A sweeping new set of studies is aiming to determine whether there's any merit to a controversial theory that blocked blood veins cause multiple sclerosis.
The theory, called chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), was first proposed by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni, and suggests that blocked veins stop blood draining from the brain, leading to an accumulation of iron, rather than the conventional thinking that MS is an autoimmune condition.
"This is a huge step in determining what the connection is between CCSVI and MS," said Stewart Wong, spokesman for the MS Society of Canada. "The research that has been published to date has been limited."
The announcement of the studies is after months of agitation from some MS patients and their families, who want the society to push for CCSVI treatments such as angioplasty to be made available to MS patients in Canada. On Saturday, CCSVI advocates will try to win seats on the MS Society's board.
The $2.4-million studies, to be jointly funded by the MS Society of Canada and the U.S. National MS Society, will include some participants with MS and others in a control group.
Four of the studies will take place in Canada and three in the United States. They will use tools such as MRIs, ultrasounds and catheters to examine the structures of veins in MS patients and iron deposits in the brain.
The studies will not test possible treatments.
"The purpose of these studies is to build the building blocks to see if further clinical studies are warranted," Mr. Wong said.