A recent study has revealed a possible mechanism for the repair of nerves damaged by multiple sclerosis. Research at the University of California has found that gene expression in certain cells and regions allows for a neuroprotective treatment approach that allows for greater precision. An example in the study was found by boosting cholesterol synthesis expression in cells within the spinal cord called astrocytes. This could allow for nerves associated with walking ability to be repaired.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) in a neurodegenerative condition in which the insulating myelin sheath covers that surround nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain are damaged. This impedes the ability of the nervous system to communicate. Symptoms vary from person to person, but can include complications such as loss of sensation, blindness in one eye, double vision, muscle weakness, and coordination problems. The cause is not fully understood, but it is thought that the body’s own immune system attacks the sheaths in many cases, causing scarring. Because there is no known cure, current treatments serve to control symptoms by reducing their severity or how often they occur. To learn more about MS, click here.
The study worked with a mouse model of the disease. Researchers first compared astrocytes in various regions of the spinal cord and brain responsible for walking, cognition, and vision by assessing gene expression. It was during this stage that they noticed that the expression of genes for cholesterol synthesis was below normal in those astrocytes linked to walking. Researchers theorized that the reduction in cholesterol synthesis gene expression was an explanation for why the lesions present in MS do not heal. To test this, they treated the affect mice with a drug that increased cholesterol synthesis gene expression. After the treatment, the mice showed improvements in mobility.