A surprising number of scientific mishaps have led to medical miracles, as science has demonstrated throughout history.
German physicist and Nobel Prize-winner Wilhelm Roentgen stuck his hand into the first x-ray, while playing with electrical discharges. British bacteriologist Alexander Fleming cultured penicillin by leaving a petri dish out too long.
It’s discoveries by accident like this that give me hope as a multiple sclerosis patient.
Multiple sclerosis patients know all about stumbling and accidents, believe me. I have a doctor’s note for my occasional klutzy moments. Still, sometimes accidents aren’t all bad.
Take a recent accidental multiple sclerosis discovery, for example:
Allison Kraus, a Ph.D. candidate and biochemical researcher at the School of Medical and Dentistry of Canada’s University of Alberta, along with a team of colleagues, has made a serendipitous discovery as well. Working closely with her research supervisor, Dr. Marak Michalak, Kraus has isolated a specific neurological gene that may lead to a cure for multiple sclerosis, the incurable and often progressively disabling neurological disorder.
The study, recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, was funded by annual grants totaling from Alberta Innovates, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
Kraus, 26, is a Canadian scientific researcher and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta and a recipient of an Alberta Research Studentship. With a close family member and several friends living with multiple sclerosis, Kraus has expressed personal hopefulness that this new scientific development may herald an ultimate cure for MS.
“MS is a difficult disease,” Kraus told the Montreal Gazette on Sept. 16), “because it’s so life-altering. To watch people lose their mobility is always difficult.”
Five years ago, Kraus, Michalak and a University of Alberta scientific team inadvertently found a connection between a specific gene and myelin, the protective covering found in the nervous system.
By experimenting with a protein called calnexin, the researchers found it linked to neurological responses. Removing calnexin in rodent lab subjects, the scientists observed demyelination, or deterioration of myelin, leading to paralysis and other motor function difficulties in the animals.
Now scientists are intrigued at the prospect that calnexin offer a step toward dealing effectively with multiple sclerosis and similar neurological diseases.
Of course, the next piece in the puzzle is to determine whether calnexin offers similar effects in humans.
As Michalak told Metro Edmonton on Sept. 17, “The beauty of this is that this really arises from curiosity-driven research. It’s something we would not have expected.”
As a multiple sclerosis patient, I am cautiously optimistic that new development may help to pave the way for a cure for this dreaded and potentially disabling neurological disease.
Along with other multiple sclerosis patients, I will be tracking future developments closely to see whether calnexin may hold a molecular key to curing MS. Of course, medical research takes considerable time, along with extensive pharmaceutical testing and the painstaking process of U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval before any potential new multiple sclerosis medication may make it to market.
So, despite my renewed hope for a cure, I suppose I will continue my daily self injections of neurologist-prescribed immunosuppressant medications, hoping to keep multiple sclerosis at bay until the actual cure arrives.
More from this contributor:
12 worst gifts for multiple sclerosis patients
Are flu shots safe for multiple sclerosis patients?
Is horseback riding good therapy for multiple sclerosis patients?
Neurologists link migraines and multiple sclerosis
UK licenses Sativex – Cannibis-related therapy for multiple sclerosis