Aside from developing new treatments for those
already affected by MS, the ultimate goals for MS research must be
prevention and cure. In order to prevent MS, researchers must find
the cause and devise a means of identifying people at risk for
developing MS. Finding a cause will require identification of the
environmental agent(s) that initiate the autoimmune attack. Current
research is focused on certain viral or bacterial pathogens
prevalent in high risk areas of the world.
To prevent MS it will also be important to identify the primary
target of the immune response to the central nervous system.
Several candidate central nervous system proteins -- including
myelin and its associated proteins-- are under scrutiny but the
role these proteins play and whether they are primary targets or
secondary casualties is not yet completely clear. Once the cause
and primary target of the MS immune response are known, scientists
may be better able to devise strategies specifically designed to
reduce the incidence of MS. In order to identify people at risk for
developing MS, the factors that set at risk individuals apart from
others must be found. If doctors could detect susceptible
individuals before they experience symptoms, preventive measures
might be taken to reduce the chance that they would develop MS.