Researchers Discover Another Cause of MS — Gives Us a Hint About How to Treat It

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

March 23, 2020



Right now, all of the medical world is focused on Covid-19. Italy is facing significant trouble from Covid-19. But several years ago, researchers from Italy developed a theory about the cause of multiple sclerosis.

Even though this discovery came several years ago, it still hasn’t caught on in mainstream medicine. And there’s a good reason it hasn’t. But we need to look at this because it gives us a hint about how to treat a disease that often causes serious physical disabilities.

I have to admit, multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most difficult chronic illnesses to treat. There are therapies that work, including vitamin D, oxidative medicine, and even some dental appliances can help. But there are still cases where the MS doesn’t resolve completely.

But this new theory on the cause and treatment of MS is very important. This team of researchers identified a new fundamental cause of MS. For years, researchers thought arterial disease was the cause. This team, however, says it’s not a disease of the arteries, but of the veins. They say it’s venous insufficiency that’s the culprit.

Here’s How They Found the Real Cause — And How It Can Lead to a Brilliant Cure

MS is a disease characterized by plaques largely in the white matter of your brain. The nerve fibers lose their myelin sheath. Myelin is akin to insulation on an electric wire. Theories have abounded. But in recent years, highly sophisticated imaging and histological studies have found an increase in iron deposits in and around plaque that strongly suggest extravasation (leaking out) of blood.

I’ve written a lot about iron. It’s a two-edged sword. It’s necessary for life. But it’s extremely chemically reactive. Proteins bind tightly to iron to prevent its toxicity. However, it can accumulate and leak out from the binding. When it does this, it can wreak havoc by generating tons of highly toxic forms of free radicals.

So what’s the connection with MS? The Italian team, headed by Dr. Paolo Zamboni, discovered something. They took 65 patients with MS and 235 controls. These subjects “blindly” underwent venography of the cerebral drainage system (where the blood leaves your brain). The results were stunning. Virtually all MS patients showed high-grade obstruction of veins that drain blood from their brains. The probability of chance occurrence was less than 1 in 10,000. That’s dramatic!

Furthermore, the venous pressure on the upside of the obstruction was higher than it should have been. The condition is dubbed CCSVI (for chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency). You can actually see, in real-time studies, disordered venous drainage in the internal jugular veins and the azygous vein. These vessels will have slower drainage time and increase in collateral flow circles to get blood around the obstructions.

But this information might not be so stunning if the same team did not put their theory to the real test. They took 65 consecutive patients with MS and treated them with venous angioplasty. You probably are familiar with arterial angioplasty. This is where doctors thread a catheter into your coronary artery to forcibly smash open plaque-compromised arteries. But angioplasty of the veins? This is new!

This team did the same for specific veins they found narrowed. But with veins, you’re not dealing with plaque. The veins might be narrowed for other reasons, we just don’t know for sure. Anyhow, of the 65 consecutive patients with MS, 35 had relapsing remitting MS, 20 had secondary progressive MS, and 10 had primary progressive MS. They gave the patients percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA). They inserted a catheter into the vein and expanded it to forcibly open the vein. Then they followed the patients for 18 months. They evaluated them for vascular measures and neurological outcomes. And they did scans to determine active MS lesions.

The team found the procedure feasible with minimal complications. The procedure significantly lowered pressure in the key veins (internal jugular and azygous). Clinically, the rate of MS relapse dropped significantly, especially in the remitting relapsing group. This group also had a drop in scan-detectable brain lesions from 50% to 12%. Their quality of life and mental testing scores also showed very significant improvement.

The Brain Needs Oxygen

Researchers hoped this would be a major paradigm shift in the making for MS. But the results of this study haven’t been repeated. That’s the good thing about science. To really make a difference, the treatment results have to be repeatable. In this case, another study looked at the treatment and found: “Venous PTA has proven to be a safe but largely ineffective technique; the treatment cannot be recommended in patients with MS.”

This is unfortunate, but it’s not entirely surprising. Angioplasty doesn’t produce a long-term fix. The results are usually short-term only. But the pieces fit, including reports I have brought you on MS. Here’s why: The brain needs quick in-and-out blood flow to fulfill its extreme need for oxygen. Twenty percent of your heart’s high-pressure output goes directly to your brain. Low-pressure venous drainage gets an obvious assist from gravity pulling blood from the higher level of your brain back to your heart. This is one reason why sleeping with your head lower than your heart doesn’t feel so good.

Your brain normally has good drainage. So the veins coming from your brain are not prepared to handle higher pressure, like those in your legs. That means the venules (the tiny post capillary veins) in your brain are likely to be far more vulnerable to extra pressure than the veins in your ankles. Leg veins are used to higher pressure simply because of the height the blood must climb to get from your legs to your heart. So, any backpressure on your cerebral veins could separate the tight junctions of your endothelial cells and break down the blood-brain barrier. Blood cells could slip through the widened junctions and accumulate iron. Indeed, that is exactly what researchers theorized with the recent iron research findings prior to Zamboni’s work. As iron accumulates, it could unleash a torrent of inflammation, resulting in MS lesions.

Why Other Treatments Have Worked

While the treatment didn’t work, the research was still valuable because it showed us another cause of MS. And it also helps explain why some of the other treatments you’ve read about in these pages work so well. For instance, Dr. Robert Rowen told us about dentist Farrand Robson of Tacoma, Washington. He saw several cases of MS resolve almost instantly with his dental appliance. Why? His appliance clearly alters, improves, and restores alignment in the neck, actually lengthening it. Restoration of neck alignment, and improvement in the local autonomic nervous system could open compressed veins.

Then there’s vitamin D. Why would it help these veins? We know that vitamin D levels are low in high latitudes. We also know MS is more common in these areas. Vitamin D is crucial for healthy endothelial cells. These cells are important on both the venous as well as arterial side. So increasing vitamin D levels will provide for healthier veins, reducing MS symptoms.

Allergy and infection are also possible causes of MS. Loosening of the blood-brain barrier could let in allergens and pathogens. Both could allow an influx of iron as well through inflammatory processes. We also know that pathogens can cause heart arterial disease. Shear stresses from arterial pressures could allow breaks in endothelial cells. Bacteria and allergens could gain entry resulting in atherosclerosis. In the MS scenario, back-up venous pressure could likewise spread apart the endothelial cells, allowing in the nasty garbage.

What to Do With This Information

This research is in its infancy. However, I think it’s really important. Zamboni’s work really interlocks with so much other research and experience with MS. Venous insufficiency is easy to check with non-invasive studies. If you are positive, don’t submit to venous angioplasty. Instead, try some of the other treatments mentioned here.

If you do decide to get the treatment, it’s important to understand it and how to keep the results more long term. It’s similar to arterial angioplasty, and your doctor can perform it from outside your skin. He threads in a catheter/tool to dilate the obstructed veins. It’s a fairly safe procedure. Of course, the veins could re-stenose (re-constrict). But together with good oral airway balancing, nutrition, detoxification, oxidation therapy, and chelation therapy, I believe that you can minimize the likelihood of a relapse.

Finally, don’t be surprised if researchers connect other neurological diseases to this anatomic problem. After all, iron extravasation could lead to any local neurological degeneration, not just MS plaques.


Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol, 295: H289-H296, 2008

J Neur Neurosurg Psychiatry 2009;80: 392-9; AJNR, 9-24-07.

JAMA Neurol. 2018 Jan 1;75(1):35-43. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.3825

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