Loss of spinal nerve fibers not the only cause of disability in multiple sclerosis

May 10, 2017, Queen Mary, University of London

It is commonly thought that in MS, the loss of axons (nerve fibres) contributes to the chronic disability found in many patients. This has led to the wide use of MRI to measure the cross sectional area of the spinal cord in order to predict disability.

But researchers from Queen Mary University of London have now sampled spinal cords of thirteen people with MS and five healthy controls, and found that spinal cord cross sectional area is not a good predictor of axonal loss.

Lead researcher Klaus Schmierer said: "The lack of association between axonal loss and spinal cord cross sectional area significantly changes our understanding of chronic disability in MS.

"The nature of the spinal cord as a highly organised and largely autonomous network needs to be appreciated. We need to identify other factors which - over and above axonal loss - determine the collapse of the spinal cord network and lead to the functional deficits seen in MS.

"In , people with less than 10% of their 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 researchers say that finding other factors that cause the chronic disability seen in MS could help identify targets for new treatments.

The team's preliminary results indicate that the loss of synaptic connections in the MS is substantial, and that this could be the missing link that is driving disability.

Explore further: Potential target for restoring ejaculation in men with spinal cord injuries or ejaculatory disorders

More information: Natalia Petrova et al, Axonal loss in the multiple sclerosis spinal cord revisited, Brain Pathology (2017). DOI: 10.1111/bpa.12516

Related Stories

Potential target for restoring ejaculation in men with spinal cord injuries or ejaculatory disorders

December 5, 2016
New research provides insights on how to restore the ability to ejaculate in men who are not able to do so.

3-D printing helps treat woman with spinal condition

April 20, 2017
Clinicians recently used 3D printing to help treat a woman with a degenerative condition of the spinal column.

Fetal movement proven essential for neuron development in rats

November 15, 2016
A newborn rat's brain development stage is close to that of a human embryo in the second half of pregnancy, which allows suggests that similar movement patterns can help neuron development in humans. The research was published ...

Spinal cord stimulation is a safe, effective drug-free treatment for chronic pain

July 14, 2016
Chronic pain affects up to 20% of people in developed countries, and represents not only a profound impact on individuals and their families but also a sizeable burden on employers, health care systems, and society in general. ...

Health behaviors and management critical for spinal cord injury patients

August 11, 2016
It can happen in a split second from a vehicle crash, a fall or a gunshot: a person's spinal cord tissue is bruised or torn by a shocking blow.

Do spinal cord injuries cause subsequent brain damage?

November 14, 2014
Most research on spinal cord injuries has focused on effects due to spinal cord damage and scientists have neglected the effects on brain function. University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) researchers have found ...

Recommended for you

What prevents remyelination? New stem cell research reveals a critical culprit

December 18, 2018
New research on remyelination, the spontaneous regeneration of the brain's fatty insulator that keeps neurons communicating, could lead to a novel approach to developing treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) and other inflammatory ...

Genetic changes tied to rare brain bleeds in babies

December 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Researchers say they've identified genetic mutations linked with a blood vessel defect that can lead to deadly brain bleeds in babies.

Gene variant found in brain complicit in MS onset

December 18, 2018
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease affecting the function of the central nervous system. Up to now, most of the 230 genetic variants associated with the disease have been linked to changes in immune cells. However, ...

Biologists identify promising drug for ALS treatment

December 18, 2018
A drug typically used to treat hepatitis could slow the progression of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, according to new research by University of Alberta scientists.

Communication between neural networks

December 18, 2018
The brain is organized into a super-network of specialized networks of nerve cells. For such a brain architecture to function, these specialized networks – each located in a different brain area – need to be able to communicate ...

Neurons with good housekeeping are protected from Alzheimer's

December 17, 2018
Some neurons in the brain protect themselves from Alzheimer's with a cellular cleaning system that sweeps away toxic proteins associated with the disease, according to a new study from Columbia University and the University ...

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.