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Two Reports from Basic Research Offer Possible Clues for Understanding MS

November 2, 2018

Two new studies highlight discoveries in the laboratory that, with further research, may yield breakthroughs in our understanding and management of MS.

Newly identified channel for brain/immune interactions: Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, have discovered microscopic tunnels in the skull through which immune cells from the skull’s bone marrow may travel to the the brain. The team found them in mouse models and in brain tissue samples from people. These tunnels may play a role in triggering or sustaining inflammation in diseases such as MS, in which the immune system and nervous system interact. Further research is necessary to determine if this is the case, and whether the tunnels could be used for blocking escalation of the immune response in MS, or for delivering medicines into the brain. This research was funded by the NIH and American Heart Association, among others.

Read more about this study in Neurology Today

Read the scientific summary of the findings in Nature Neuroscience

Regulating thickness of nerve-insulating myelin: A team from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, report that in mice and rats, brain cells called astrocytes can control how fast nerve cells transmit signals by regulating the thickness of the myelin sheath that insulates nerve fibers. Myelin is a prime target of immune attacks in MS and understanding factors that control its generation and health is key to finding ways to protect and repair myelin to restore function. The researchers reported found that certain astrocytes inhibit an enzyme called “thrombin” to alter myelin and the speed of nerve signals. Thrombin inhibitors are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for other diseases. This team is now testing them in a mouse model of MS to see if blocking thrombin helps to prevent damage to myelin. Further research may yield a novel therapeutic option for protecting the nervous system from damage in people with MS. This research was funded by the NIH and the Department of Defense.

Read more about this study from the NIH

Read the paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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