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Breakthrough Stroke Treatment Surprises Doctors and Patients

March 8, 2018

One way the body may protect itself from nerve cell inflammation is to have cells in the blood-brain barrier increase their production of a protein that keeps immune cells from entering the brain, researchers in Germany and Canada report.

The finding suggests that scientists could develop a multiple sclerosis therapy around the protein, known as EGFL7. It would work by preventing as many inflammation-generating immune cells from entering the brain.

Researchers published their study, “EGFL7 reduces CNS inflammation in mouse,” in the journal Nature Communications.
The underlying trigger for MS is immune cells crossing the blood-brain barrier to invade the central nervous system (CNS). The barrier is a selective membrane that shields the CNS from general blood circulation.

Therapies that prevent immune cells from entering the brain can help control the disease, studies have shown. They include Tysabri (natalizumab, marketed by Biogen).

But “as with other highly effective disease-modifying therapies which influence a broad range of peripheral immune cells, potential devastating adverse events limit the use of this therapy as a first-line agent,” the researchers wrote.

Researchers said the increase prevented pro-inflammatory immune cells from crossing into the CNS. Endothelial cells that line blood capillaries in the blood-brain barrier are the ones that secrete EGFL7.

“We postulate that EGFL7 upregulation by BBB-ECs [brain blood barrier-endothelial cells] is induced as a compensatory mechanism to promote survival and recovery of BBB function in neuroinflammatory conditions,” the team wrote.