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MS Can Be Triggered By Brain Cell Death

December 15, 2015

A study from Northwestern Medicine and The University of Chicago reported that Multiple Sclerosis (MS) may be triggered by the death of brain cells that make the insulation around nerve fibers. Also, a specially developed nanoparticle prevented MS even after the death of those brain cells, an experiment in the study showed.

The nanoparticles are being developed for clinical trials that could lead to new treatments, without the side effects of current therapies, in adults.

These scientists also developed the first “mouse model” for progressive MS. This will allow the testing of new drugs against progressive MS.

The study was published in Nature Neuroscience.

"We're encouraged that immune tolerance induced with nanoparticles could stop disease progression in a model of chronic MS as efficiently as it can in progressive-remitting models of MS," lead investigator Stephen Miller said.

The timing of therapy is important, Popko pointed out.

"Protecting oligodendrocytes in susceptible individuals might help delay or prevent MS from initiating," Popko said. "It's likely that therapeutic strategies that intervene early in the disease process will have greater impact."

In the experiment, scientists developed a genetically engineered mouse model in which the oligodendrocytes died, affecting the animals' ability to walk. The central nervous system regenerated the myelin-producing cells, enabling the mice to walk again. But about six months later, the MS-like disease came barreling back. This demonstrated the scientists' theory that the death of oligodendrocytes can initiate MS. In humans, the scientists posit, the disease develops years after the initial injury to the brain.