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FIGURE 1.2 The nerve fiber in multiple sclerosis. SOURCE: Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Multiple Sclerosis: New leads into its cause and treatment. November 1995. Reprinted with permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.


The National MS Society (the MS Society) was founded in 1946 by Sylvia Lawry “to end the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis.” Her brother had been diagnosed with MS and doctors told her there was nothing they could do for him. In response, she established a foundation that would be devoted to research on MS. It was an optimistic era. Fatal diseases were being conquered in rapid succession. In the late 1920s, it was discovered that vitamin B12 could both prevent and cure pernicious anemia. By 1940, insulin was being used to control diabetes. Also, with the discovery of the curative powers of penicillin and streptomycin in the 1930s and 1940s, a major revolution in public health and medicine had been launched—the “age of antibiotics.” Each of these triumphs, marked by Nobel prizes, inspired the search for clear-cut cures.

However, much has changed since 1946. Many diseases, including MS, have disappointed those hoping to discover simple answers. Nevertheless, the study of MS has led to many improvements, in both quality and longevity, in the lives of people with MS. For the first time ever, treatments that can slow the progress of the disease are available, but still no cause or cure for MS has been found. MS remains a mysterious disease.

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