The Mystery Of MS | KUOW News and Information

The Mystery Of MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) has long been known as an autoimmune disorder that affects more people living in the Pacific Northwest than in most other parts of the country and the world. Scientists still don't have a firm answer why that is.

But researchers have begun unraveling some new theories about the disease from a set of intriguing clues. They know, for example, that the farther you live from the equator, the higher your risk. They know your risk is higher if you're of Northern European descent. Researchers are getting some new clues as about the origins of MS from a relatively new patient population: children. Though MS has traditionally been thought of as a disease that affects adults, doctors are now seeing it in younger patients.

In our series, The Mystery Of MS, we meet a young patient who is learning to live with the disease at the age of 16, and we meet the doctors and scientists who are trying to understand the mystery of MS so they can keep MS patients as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

The Mystery Of MS was reported and photographed by Carol Smith of InvestigateWest, and edited by Jim Gates.

Funding for our series was provided by the KUOW Program Venture Fund. Contributors include Paul and Laurie Ahern, the KUOW Board of Directors and Listener Subscribers.

Lincoln Potter

The mystery of why the Pacific Northwest has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world is as enduring as the mystery of the D.B. Cooper hijacking — and has proven about as difficult to crack.

Recently, however, scientists have been closing in on some likely triggers that may be causing the body to hijack its own immune system and turn on itself. Those new findings could lead to new treatment strategies in the future.

Carol Smith

The Pacific Northwest has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, yet the reasons why remain elusive. It’s an old mystery, but one that now has a new face. Today, doctors are seeing a growing number of cases in kids. They hope these young patients will yield more clues to what causes the disease.