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Loss of Spinal Nerve Fibers Not the Only Cause of Disability in Multiple Sclerosis

May 17, 2017

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have found that spinal cord cross sectional area is not a good predictor of axonal loss. It is commonly thought that the loss of axons (nerve fibers) contributes to multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the study shows otherwise. The researchers sampled spinal cords of thirteen people with MS and five health controls. Lead researcher Klaus Schmierer said: "In spinal cord trauma, people with less than 10% of their spinal cord axons may still be able to have useful lower limb movement, but in MS, patients with as much as 40% of their axons retained, as shown in our study, are almost invariably wheelchair bound. So there is clearly something happening here which we've yet to understand."

The team’s preliminary results indicate that the loss of synaptic connections in the MS spinal cord is substantial. According to the team, this could be the missing link that is driving disability. They have found a lack of association between axonal loss and spinal cord cross sectional area. It could change the understanding of the chronic disability in MS. Schmierer further points out that we need to identify other factors which “determine the collapse of spinal cord network and lead to the functional deficits seen in MS.” The researchers believe that finding other factors that cause chronic disability seen in MS could help identify targets for new treatments.

Via Science Daily