In conditions like multiple sclerosis or neuromyelitis optica, disease progression is spurred by the destruction of myelin, the protective coating around nerve cells. However, new research suggests that N-acetylglucosamine, a type of simple sugar, could protect or even rebuild myelin. According to Medical Xpress, N-acetylglucosamine improves myelination. If you’d like to see the full research findings, they are published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Simple Sugar: N-acetylglucosamine
So what is N-acetylglucosamine? It is a form of simple sugar which can be found in human breast milk, dietary supplements, and even shellfish shells (according to RxList). Researchers wanted to understand whether this simple sugar could promote myelination in patients with multiple sclerosis. They decided to test mice models, particularly mothers and infants. This is because myelination contributes to cognitive growth and development during youth.
They administered N-acetylglucosamine to mice mothers who were lactating and feeding their babies. The researchers discovered that N-acetylglucosamine spurred myelination in infant mice. As a result, myelin was both promoted and repaired. Dr. Friedemann Paul, MD explains that patients who are N-acetylglucosamine deficient may experience worse outcomes. However, in the future, additional studies are needed to determine if providing this simple sugar to patients with multiple sclerosis will yield the same outcomes as the mice models.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Currently, there is no known cause of multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease that inhibits communication between the brain and the body. However, some doctors believe MS is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks myelin, or the protective covering on nerve cells. MS can be either relapsing and remitting (periods of symptoms and periods of remission) or progressive (no remission). Females are 2x more likely to develop MS than males. It can occur at any age, but usually occurs between 15 and 60. Symptoms include:
- Loss of coordination
- Vision loss
- Balance issues
- Muscle numbness and weakness
- Loss of bladder control
- Depression and anxiety
Learn more about MS.