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Discovery of "Fiery" Cell Death Mechanism May Be a Game-Changer in the MS Community

June 28, 2018

Researchers have unveiled a new cell death mechanism called pyroptosis — also known as “fiery death” — as a main factor driving neurodegeneration and loss of myelin in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

An inhibitor of pyroptosis, currently undergoing testing in human clinical trials for epilepsy, decreased central nervous system inflammation and reduced several of the neurobehavioral deficits in a mouse model of MS.

“This could be a game changer, because we discovered a fundamental mechanism by which brain cells are damaged in MS that couples inflammation with neurodegeneration,” Chris Power, neurologist, co-director of the University of Alberta MS Centre in Canada, and study lead author, said in a press release.

The study “Caspase-1 inhibition prevents glial inflammasome activation and pyroptosis in models of multiple sclerosis” was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pyroptosis is a type of programmed cell death that is driven by pro-inflammation signals, but its role in MS was previously unknown.

Now, researchers at the University of Alberta found that pyroptosis is a primary mechanism driving the loss of myelin in the central nervous system in MS.

They revealed that this cell death process was significantly activated in post-mortem brain samples from MS patients, relative to non-MS controls.