Alberta will spend up to $1 million to track the experience of people with multiple sclerosis, particularly those who have had the controversial treatment introduced by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni.
The web-based study, announced Wednesday, is being conducted by researchers at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, as well as experts in the MS community, the province announced Wednesday.
Zamboni's treatment — also called liberation therapy — is not approved for use in Canada, but it is available in several other countries including Italy, where it was first introduced.
The procedure purports to unclog the neck veins of MS sufferers on the theory that their illness is caused by a condition Zamboni calls chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI. Zamboni and some researchers maintain that people with CCSVI have reduced blood drainage out of their brains, leading to a buildup of iron in the central nervous system and MS symptoms.
Alberta Health and Wellness is contributing up to $1 million to fund the study.
"Many people told us about their improved mobility and quality of life after the Zamboni procedure, but care must be taken because some patients experienced adverse effects and even death," Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky said.
"We want to learn more, so I am asking Albertans with MS to participate in this new study."
The Alberta Multiple Sclerosis Initiative study will include a self-administered online survey that patients with MS or related conditions will fill out at regular intervals.
"This study will complement other ongoing CCSVI studies to address questions that must be answered in order to design clinical trials," said lead researcher Dr. Luanne Metz, who runs an MS clinic in Calgary.