Newfoundland and Labrador researchers are enrolling multiple sclerosis patients in an observational study of a controversial treatment for the disease.

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Health ministers are under intense pressure from patients to accelerate research testing a theory that abnormal blood drainage from the brain plays a role in multiple sclerosis and that angioplasty on neck veins might help treat the disease. ((Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press) )

The provincial government promised in September to spend $320,000 on the study.

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy said Wednesday that the study of the treatment, based on work by Italian surgeon Paolo Zamboni, has been reviewed and approved by the Memorial University of Newfoundland medical school's human-investigations committee.

"We know there is great interest in the multiple sclerosis observational study that this government has committed to undertaking," Kennedy said.

"We have taken the appropriate steps to have this study approved through an ethics review and are now enrolling patients."

Zamboni, a vascular surgeon, developed a procedure that uses angioplasty to open veins in an MS patient's neck, with the aim of increasing blood flow from their brain. He believes it may help relieve symptoms of the disease, which he theorizes may be caused by iron buildup in the brain.

30 patients needed for study

A Newfoundland and Labrador government news release said it has enrolled 10 MS patients in the province's study — eight who are having the Zamboni procedure and two who are not.

"This will allow for blinding of the examining physician to ensure accurate and unbiased results," the statement said.

It said the study needs 30 patients to enrol.

A team of local neurologists who specialize in multiple sclerosis will conduct the study and examine the participants.

The purpose of the study is to help determine the impact, if any, that the Zamboni procedure has on multiple sclerosis patients.

"It is our hope that this study will play a role in determining the facts about this procedure, and ultimately, if proven effective, it will provide direction as to the next steps," Kennedy said.