According to a UVAToday report, researchers at UVA uncovered a new piece of the multiple sclerosis puzzle. The secret lies with what are known as lymphatic vessels. Lymphatic vessels normally assist in cleaning the brain. They keep harmful material from accumulating. New research, however, suggests they also carry messages. A certain kind of message between these vessels and the immune system can trigger multiple sclerosis. Keep reading to learn more, or follow the original story here for more information.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition affecting the brain’s communication with the rest of the body. In cases of MS, a person’s immune system attacks the protective covering of nerve cells. This conductive material is known as myelin. In its absence, the transmission of messages from the brain to the rest of the body becomes slowed or blocked entirely.
Multiple sclerosis may affect any and all parts of the body. The extremities, eyes, and muscles are the most commonly affected. The first symptoms of MS typically appear between the ages of 20 and 40. Weakness, numbness, loss of speech, and loss of bladder control are all characteristic symptoms of MS. Though there is no treatment for multiple sclerosis, it is possible to treat the various symptoms of the condition.
Preventing Multiple Sclerosis
By targeting the lymphatic vessels around the brain, researchers at UVA prevented the progression of multiple sclerosis. While no method the group tried completely stopped multiple sclerosis, they were able to reduce its effects.
Using precision lasers, researchers blocked the vessels or destroyed them. The tests were conducted in mice and all bore similar results. In each case, the number of destructive immune cells were reduced. Much, however, remains unknown. Researchers still seek to understand what kind of signal triggers the onset of multiple sclerosis. Their current strategy prevents wide spread damage but is unable to stop the disease entirely. Revealing the nature of the signal, however, may enable further treatment development.
Research by the UVA team proves that lymphatic vessels are an important area of investigation. How they connect the brain to the immune system may be key to treating several conditions. Their research also shows a connection between the vessels and Alzheimer’s. Healthy function of the lymphatic vessels plays an important role in preventing Alzheimer’s. This means that completely blocking lymphatic vessels near the brain may not be a cure for multiple sclerosis in and of itself.
A deal with biopharmaceutical company PureTech Health has already been announced to further the research goals of the team. More details on the team’s research is also available in the journal Nature Neuroscience where their findings have been officially published.