Hopes for reversing age-associated effects in MS patients

January 6, 2012

New research highlights the possibility of reversing ageing in the central nervous system for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. The study is published today, 06 January, in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

As we get older, our bodies' ability to regenerate decreases. This is not only true for our skin (which is evident in the wrinkles that develop as we age) but also true for other tissues in the body, including the regenerative processes in the brain. For diseases which often span several decades and are affected by regenerative processes, such as multiple sclerosis, this can have massive implications.

In , the insulating layers that protect in the brain, known as myelin sheaths, become damaged. The loss of myelin in the brain prevents nerve fibres from sending signals properly and will eventually lead to the loss of the nerve fibre itself. However, early in the disease, a regenerative process, or remyelination, occurs and the myelin sheaths are restored. Unfortunately, as people with MS age, remyelination decreases significantly, resulting in more nerve fibres being permanently lost.

However, a new study in mice shows that the age-associated decline in the regeneration of the nerve's , or remyelination, is reversible. The proof of principle study demonstrates that when old mice are exposed to the (called monocytes) from young mice, the ageing remyelination process can be reversed.

Professor Robin Franklin, Director of the MS Society's Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair at the University of Cambridge, said: "What we have shown in our study, carried out in collaboration with Dr Amy Wagers and colleagues at Harvard University, is that the age-associated decline in remyelination is reversible. We found that remyelination in old can be made to work as efficiently as it does in young adult mice.

"For individuals with MS, this means that in theory regenerative therapies will work throughout the duration of the disease. Specifically, it means that remyelination therapies do not need to be based on stem cell transplantation since the stem cells already present in the brain and spinal cord can be made to regenerate myelin - regardless of the patient's age."

MS affects approximately 100,000 people in the United Kingdom, 400,000 in the United States and several million worldwide. Symptoms of the disease can include the loss of physical skills, sensation, vision, bladder control, and intellectual abilities.

More information: The paper 'Rejuvenation of regeneration in the aging central nervous system' will be published in the 06 January edition of Cell Stem Cell.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Drug found that induces apoptosis in myofibroblasts reducing fibrosis in scleroderma

December 15, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found that the drug navitoclax can induce apoptosis (self-destruction) in myofibroblasts in mice, reducing the spread of fibrosis in scleroderma. In their paper ...

How defeating THOR could bring a hammer down on cancer

December 14, 2017
It turns out Thor, the Norse god of thunder and the Marvel superhero, has special powers when it comes to cancer too.

Researchers track muscle stem cell dynamics in response to injury and aging

December 14, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) describes the biology behind why muscle stem cells respond differently to aging or injury. The findings, published in Cell Stem Cell, ...

'Human chronobiome' study informs timing of drug delivery, precision medicine approaches

December 13, 2017
Symptoms and efficacy of medications—and indeed, many aspects of the human body itself—vary by time of day. Physicians tell patients to take their statins at bedtime because the related liver enzymes are more active during ...

Study confirms link between the number of older brothers and increased odds of being homosexual

December 12, 2017
Groundbreaking research led by a team from Brock University has further confirmed that sexual orientation for men is likely determined in the womb.

Potassium is critical to circadian rhythms in human red blood cells

December 12, 2017
An innovative new study from the University of Surrey and Cambridge's MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, has uncovered the secrets of the circadian rhythms in ...

0 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.