Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an unpredictable autoimmune disease of the central nervous system.
In the disease, the communication between the brain and other parts of the body is disrupted.
MS can range from relatively benign to something very damaging. Currently there is no cure for MS.
If the disease is benign, patients do not need any therapy and can still do well. But in worse case, patients may lose ability to talk, walk, and write.
Drugs for MS can bring strong side effects and harmful health risks. Sometimes, MS is hard to diagnosed from its beginning, and doctors and patients may waste years of time and effort.
Because the disease tends to remit, FDA has approved medications for treatment of relapsing-remitting MS.
Recently, a study from University of Calgary offers a new hope to beat MS.
In the medical field, the conventional thinking is that rogue immune cells initially enter the brain and cause myelin damage that starts MS.
But the finding from this study shows that here may be something happening deeper and earlier that damages the myelin and then later triggers the immune attacks.
In the study, the team designed a mouse model of MS that begins with a mild myelin injury. In this way, they could mirror what they believe to be the earliest stages of the disease.
They found that a subtle early biochemical injury to myelin secondarily triggers an immune response that leads to additional damage due to inflammation.
In MRI and tissue examination, it looks very much like an MS plaque and provide a possibility that MS could begin in this way in human.
The next step is to find treatments to stop the degeneration of the myelin to see if that could reduce, or stop, the secondary autoimmune response.
“We collaborated with researchers at the University of Toronto and found that by targeting a treatment that would protect the myelin to stop the deterioration, the immune attack stopped and the inflammation in the brain never occurred,” says the senior author Dr. Peter Stys.
“This research opens a whole new line of thinking about this disease. Most of the science and treatment for MS has been targeted at the immune system, and while anti-inflammatory medications can be very effective, they have very limited benefit in the later progressive stages of the disease when most disability happens.”
The research team has been awarded the Brain and Mental Health Strategic Research Fund from the University of Calgary.
Their finding is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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