MS Society Edinburgh Centre for MS Research, in the UK. It amounts to a switch that can promote myelin repair in the brain and spinal cord.
Dr Veronique Miron headed a team that previously showed that a protein called activin-A is important in remyelination. However, at that time, despite their efforts, it was not clear how it worked.
This time, their new research has found the exact switch in cells that it triggers. Studies in mice showed that when this switch, or receptor, is turned on by the activin-A protein. According to their report, which was published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica, it increases the number of myelin-making cells. As a result, it boosts myelin repair.
The Edinburgh team used tissue from the MS Society Tissue Bank to look for the ‘receptor’, called Acvr2a, in MS brain lesions.
They found that In tissue from people with progressive MS, levels of Acvr2a were higher in areas where myelin repair was active. Conversely, where myelin repair was not taking place in MS lesions, levels of the receptor were lower.
Search for new treatment
Next, scientists will look to identify drugs able to target Acvr2a to promote myelin repair. These could then be developed into treatments for people with MS.
“When we first discovered this protein activin-A, we didn’t know exactly what role it played in remyelination. We now know it binds to a specific receptor, which then causes cells to carry out myelin repair.
“This is a really exciting discovery because we can now focus our efforts on developing drugs that target the receptor. If we can do that, we can encourage cells to make new myelin after damage has been done in MS.”
“We’re thrilled to be supporting Dr Miron’s ground-breaking work. Many of the 100,000 people living with MS in the UK still don’t have any treatment options. Finding new targets like this receptor mean we’ll be able to develop more effective treatments and stop MS faster.”
While this discovery is important to everyone with MS, it’s particularly exciting for anyone who, like me, has a form of progressive MS.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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