The issue's that we probably don't need to know exactly, what it is that causes the disease in the first place. What we need to know is how to reprogram the immune system so that we can stop the immune attack on the brain. The immune system is actually the other organ in the body that learns from experience.
So certainly our brain learns from experience, but the immune system also learns from experience and there's something about early life experience in MS patients that causes the immune system to adopt a behavior where it attacks the nervous system in an inappropriate way. We think that we actually can reprogram that and our strategy will be to use a vaccine-like approach where we use brain proteins in a certain vaccine strategy to develop immune cells that actually can move into the brain and prevent the
immune attack on the brain. That's our best hope I think at this point for finding a true cure.
We, at the Rocky Mountain MS Center, have a lot going on here. It's actually an experience of remarkable growth. When I came, I joined Dr. John Corboy who had been here for a number of
years. Shortly after Dr. Augusto Miravalle joined us and then Dr. Matthew West and now Dr. Terry Shriner will be joining us in July. We're also having a recruitment process for another physician and we have Melissa Butler and Christie Swim who are our mid-level providers and as result the program has gone from a few hundred patient visits per year to about 6000 patient visits per year for multiple sclerosis alone.
In addition to the clinical program we've been able to continue to develop the educational program to the Rocky Mountain MS Center. It really is a reason all resource that although it can be accessed nationally and internationally it's primarily focused on the Rocky Mountains region, from
the Canadian border down to New Mexico.
And then the third part of the program has been remarkable in its growth as the research program. We have at any given moment 28 to 30 active clinical studies in multiple sclerosis and we have many new studies that are starting up as well as other studies that are winding down. So the program
is moving very rapidly to develop new strategies for treatment and I think better strategies.
We're also deeply involved in trying to understand the biological basis of the disease, but our primary focus there is on trying to identify factors that we can use to develop new therapies for MS and that's where I mentioned the vaccine approach. So this year in January we established a translational research laboratory as part of the overall clinical research program and that laboratory is unique. It actually works very closely with the physicians to take advantage of all of the knowledge we have from our
clinical work to identify the key questions in a laboratory that are most likely going to result in improvements in treatment in the near future. So we are now one of the largest programs in the world and still growing.