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Research Snapshot: U of M study finds possible delay of disability progression in multiple sclerosis

Photo: adrigu via Flickr

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system which can lead to blurred vision, balance issues, tremors and even paralysis amongst other issues.

An estimated 2.1 million people have MS but it is believed to be much higher because the CDC does not require U.S. physicians to report new cases.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota neuroscientist Wensheng Lin, M.D., Ph.D., took a closer look at the relationship of myelin and oligodendrocytes (cells responsible for the formation of myelin in the central nervous system) in mice with MS.

Here’s what Lin found:

  • In cases of MS, immune cells destroy myelin and oligodendrocytes in its animal model experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE)
  • The PERK pathway is activated by a specific intracellular stress response to the accumulation of proteins in the secretory pathway, a particularly important cellular function of oligodendrocytes
  • Activation of the PERK pathway in oligodendrocytes prevents immune-mediated myelin damage and oligodendrocyte death in mice in the EAE, resulting in less severe clinical symptoms

So, what does this mean?

These findings imply that therapeutic strategies that activate the PERK pathway in oligodendrocytes may have beneficial effects on neurological function and delay disability progression in MS patients.

Lin hopes that this will eventually lead to a greater understanding of MS and possible breakthroughs in human patients with MS.

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