Study identifies protein to repair damaged brain tissue in MS

Vittorio Gallo, PhD, Director of the Center for Neuroscience Research at Children's National Health System, and other researchers have found a "potentially novel therapeutic target" to reduce the rate of deterioration and to promote growth of brain cells damaged by multiple sclerosis (MS). Current therapies can be effective in patients with relapsing MS, but have little impact in promoting tissue growth.

The brain produces new cells to repair the damage from MS years after symptoms appear. However, in most cases the cells are unable to complete the repair, as unknown factors limit this process. In MS patients, in random patches, or lesions, leads to destruction of myelin, the fatty covering that insulates nerve cell fibers called axons in the brain, and aids in transmission of signals to other neurons.

In yesterday's publication of Neuron, Gallo, who also is a professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), reported identifying a small protein that can be targeted to promote repair of damaged tissue, with therapeutic potential. The molecule, Endothelin-1 (ET-1), is shown to inhibit repair of myelin. Myelin damage is a hallmark characteristic of MS. The study demonstrates that blocking ET-1 pharmacologically or using a genetic approach could promote myelin repair.

Repair of damaged MS plaques is carried out by endogenous oliogdendrocytle progenitor cells (OPCs) in a process called remyelination. Current MS therapy can be effective in patients with relapsing and remitting MS, but "have little impact in promoting remyelination in tissue," Gallo said. Several studies have shown that OPCs fail to differentiate in chronic MS lesions.

Targeting ET-1 is a process that involves identifying signals in cells that could promote lesion repair. "We demonstrate that ET-1 drastically reduces the rate of remyelination," Gallo said. As such, ET-1 is "potentially a to promote lesion repair in deymyelinated tissue." It could play a "crucial role in preventing normal myelination in MS and in other demyelinating diseases," Gallo said.

More information: www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(13)01083-0

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers unlock mystery of skin's sensory abilities

Dec 19, 2014

Humans' ability to detect the direction of movement of stimuli in their sensory world is critical to survival. Much of this stimuli detection comes from sight and sound, but little is known about how the ...

Tackling neurotransmission precision

Dec 18, 2014

Behind all motor, sensory and memory functions, calcium ions are in the brain, making those functions possible. Yet neuroscientists do not entirely understand how fast calcium ions reach their targets inside ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.