Scientists studying the way in which multiple sclerosis develops say they have identified a new mechanism of action behind the disease that may offer a new pathway for drug developers.
The team drawn from the University of Chicago and Northwestern says that the death of oligodendrocytes, the brain cells that produce myelin, could be responsible for triggering the autoimmune response against myelin. And they say that they're working on nanoparticles that could reverse that process, even after the death of the cells.
Co-senior author Brian Popko, Jack Miller Professor of Neurological Disorders at the University of Chicago, says the team developed a mouse model that targeted oligodendrocytes, determining that the mice then developed symptoms of MS that included difficulty walking.
Their theory is that the death of the cells causes myelin to essentially fall apart, causing the immune system to identify them as foreign invaders that need to be eliminated. The results were published this week in Nature Neuroscience.
"Although this was a study in mice, we've shown for the first time one possible mechanism that can trigger MS--the death of the cells responsible for generating myelin can lead to the activation of an autoimmune response against myelin," Popko said. "Protecting these cells in susceptible individuals might help delay or prevent MS."