The Italian Multiple Sclerosis Foundation today announced it will allocate up to $4.5 million to fund ongoing research into CCSVI, a condition linked to multiple sclerosis.

The foundation says it is accepting research proposals until March 8 from scientists interested in studying "chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency," a newly-discovered condition uncovered by a team at the University of Ferrara in Italy and lead scientist Dr. Paolo Zamboni.

“We await proposals from groups of Italian researchers, in particular by the research groups that are already active with Prof. Zamboni,” the foundation said in an Italian news release.

Zamboni's team believes that CCSVI causes veins in the neck and upper chest to twist, narrow or become blocked; in some cases, these veins never form at all. The result is poor blood drainage from the brain. Zamboni has found that more than 90 per cent of patients with MS have these malformed veins, and improper blood flow from the brain.

Roberta Amaedo, president of the Italian Association for Multiple Sclerosis, said in the release: "We need certainty about the relationship between MS and CCSVI and on the clinical course that this can cause, and on that, clinical trials will make an important contribution.”

The association also cautioned patients against seeking endovascular or surgical procedures to open these blocked veins outside of controlled research studies.

In another development, an international group of doctors who specialize in disorders of the veins has issued a consensus document on the diagnosis and treatment of these problems, including CCSVI. The International Union of Phlebology officially classified CCSVI as a congenital vascular malformation, outlining official guidelines for diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. James Laredo, a vascular surgeon at Georgetown University Hospital, and one of the authors of the statement, said the members of the group voted unanimously in favour of including CCSVI as a venous malformation.

The statement also says the origins of this novel condition appear to take root during development in the uterus. Zamboni,  is part of the International Union of Phlebology.

Laredo told CTV News that his hospital is now planning to begin a study in a month with neurologists to screen MS patients for these abnormal veins and determine if there is a link between CCSVI and multiple sclerosis. They will be treating MS patients who are found to have CCSVI.

"In Dr. Zamboni's group of MS patients, I feel that he has demonstrated proof of concept. Furthermore, I feel that his findings are significant enough that it requires further investigation and that is why we at Georgetown University Medical Center have begun our investigation into CCSVI," said Dr. Laredo.

With added files from producer Elizabeth St. Philip