Radio Clyde legend Tiger Tim Stevens is to try a pioneering technique developed by an Italian doctor.
And Tim believes it represents new hope for the 10,000 Scots who suffer from MS.
Tim, 57, has been living with multiple sclerosis for 20 years, a condition which has confined him to a wheelchair and caused his energy levels to collapse.
But he believes there is fresh hope for the 10,000 Scots who suffer from MS. An Italian doctor claims to have come up with a revolutionary new theory for the research and diagnosis of the disease.
“He has turned around the whole theory on how MS develops,” says Tim.
“As a result, I’m now looking to embark upon a new treatment that I believe could produce some fantastic results.”
Dr Paolo Zamboni, a professor of medicine at the University of Ferrara in Italy, believes that MS is not, as widely believed, an autoimmune condition, but a vascular disease.
The vascular surgeon began investigating the illness back in 1995 when his wife revealed symptoms of MS and he found repeated references, dating back a
century, to excess iron as a possible cause of the debilitating condition.
Using ultrasound to examine the blood vessels leading in and out of the brain, Dr. Zamboni discovered that in more than 90% of people with MS, including his wife, the veins draining blood from the brain were malformed or blocked.
His conclusion is that excess iron damages the vessels, allowing the heavy metal, along with other unwelcome cells, to cross the crucial brain-blood barrier which keeps blood and cerebrospinal fluid separate.
In MS, immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier, where they destroy myelin, a crucial sheathing on nerves which control body function.
“I’m so excited,” says Tim, who lives in Hogganfield. “This news seems to have come out of nowhere. But it all seems to make sense.”
Dr Zamboni believes that if the jugular and azygos veins, which take blood away from the brain, are cleared then the symptoms of MS can be reduced.
Tim’s immediate plan is to have an ultrasound scan, which will reveal if his veins are indeed blocked by iron deposits.
“If this is the case I will undergo a simple operation to unclog the veins and get blood flowing normally again.
It’s a procedure similar to angioplasty, in which a catheter is threaded into the groin and up into the arteries, where a tiny balloon is inflated to clear the blockages.”
Dr Zamboni’s wife, who had the surgery three years ago, has not had an attack since.
Small scale studies in Italy have had dramatic results. In a group of 65 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (the most common form) who underwent surgery, the number of active lesions in the brain fell sharply, to 12% from 50%; and in the two years after surgery, 73% of patients had no symptoms.
Sceptics however warn the evidence is too scant and speculative to start rewriting medical textbooks. They say that MS sufferers should not rush off to get the surgery – nicknamed the “liberation procedure” – until more research is done.
But Tim reckons there is no point in wasting time.
“Life is too short,” he says, poignantly. “And for so many people with MS their quality of life is reduced. I’m not about to wait around for a few years while this theory is tested and tested, only to prove it correct.
“I want to take action now.”
Tim’s wife Caroline is a dietician who has also spent years researching the possible causes and treatments for MS.
“I’ve looked at all the usual probables for reasons why MS develops, whether it’s a viral problem or dietary. I’ve looked at the chemicals in Tim’s blood. We’ve tried every natural remedy imaginable. But amazingly, no-one has thought to consider a build up of iron. It all seems to make sense.
“And while we know there is a higher incidence of MS in Scotland and Canada than anywhere else in the world, this could be explained because of a genetic predisposition to iron retention.”
Caroline added: “It will be incredible to discover if the iron deposits are the cause of Tim’s MS.
But Tim is still concerned as there is a worry that this new treatment may not help people with his form of MS, which is primary progressive rather than the relapsing-remitting which Dr Zamboni’s wife had.
“We will have to go through the tests and find out,” he says with a shrug.
Tim, who still broadcasts on Clyde2 on Saturdays at 6pm, adds: “Because I’ve had MS for so long, it’s reckoned that I won’t be able to leave the wheelchair after getting this treatment. But it may help give me more energy, stop the lethargy.
“But just as importantly, it can point the way to recovery for lots of young people who are now being diagnosed with MS.
“There may be hope just around the corner.”
I’m now looking to embark upon a new treatment that I believe could produce some fantastic results