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Mice Without This Protein Resist MS

Researchers from the University of Alberta and McGill University examined donated human brain tissue and found that patients with multiple sclerosis have an extremely high content of the protein calnexin in comparison to those without the disease.

The researchers tested the susceptibility of mice lacking calnexin to the mouse model of human MS and found that they had been completely resistant to the autoimmune disease.

“It turns out that calnexin is somehow involved in controlling the function of the blood-brain barrier,” said Marek Michalak, professor of biochemistry at the University of Alberta. He also explained that the structure usually acts like a wall which restricts the passage of cells and substances from the brain. “When there is too much calnexin, this wall gives angry T-cells access to the brain where they destroy myelin.”

One in 340 Canadians are estimated to be living with MS, making Canada having one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world.

Luis Agellon, professor at the McGill University School of Human Nutrition, says they are very excited about this finding, as it “Identifies calnexin as an important target for developing therapies for MS.” He says “Our challenge now is to tease out exactly how this protein works in the cells involved in making up the blood-brain barrier.”

If researchers are able to pinpoint exactly what calnexin’s role is in this process, a way to manipulate its function to promote resistance for developing MS can be found.


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