Brain molecule fundamental for MS repair

Brain molecule fundamental for MS repair

 

Monday, 12 February, 2018

Dr Veronique Miron (Centre for Reproductive Health) and colleagues have published a study showing that a molecule in the brain is fundamental to repairing the damage caused in Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease characterized by muscle weakness, vision problems, impaired coordination, and physical numbness. The main factor causing these symptoms is demyelination - when the immune system attacks and damages the myelin, or the "coating", around axons (projections that connect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord). Therefore, a major challenge for researchers has been to promote remyelination of these axons.

This study looked at the myelin production mechanism in which activin-A is implicated both in vivo (using the mouse model of MS) and in vitro (on human tissue provided by the MS Society Tissue Bank). They have been able to show that a protein called activin-A plays an important role in the promotion of myelin repair. 

Dr Miron said: "When we first discovered this protein activin-A, we didn't know exactly what role it played in remyelination. We now know it binds to a specific receptor, which then causes cells to carry out myelin repair. This is a really exciting discovery because [we] can now focus our efforts on developing drugs that target the receptor. If we can do that, we can encourage cells to make new myelin after damage has been done in MS."