MS researchers find new switch for myelin repair

Researchers have found a brain molecule that promises to have a vital role in the repair of the myelin sheath. This is damaged in people with multiple sclerosis.

The molecule was found by a research team at the 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.

myelin

Dr Veronique Miron of the Edinburgh Centre for MS Research (pic: MS Society).

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.

Senior author Dr Veronique Miron said: “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.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, MS Society director of research (pic: MS Society).

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.”

MS director of research Dr Susan Kohlhaas said: “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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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

4 thoughts on “MS researchers find new switch for myelin repair

  1. This is very interesting research that I want to follow…and I’m sure you do also. (It is particularly interesting to me to hear it is research being done in Edinburgh.) Most MS research now is focused on immune suppressants in creating drugs for MS. When a research group wants to repair the damage evident in MS, they either zero in on Chemo first (the ultimate immune suppressant), then stem cells OR liberation therapy first (opening the venous blood flow in the brain, CCSVI), then stem cells. Both of these are meant to address what is most likely thought to create the MS lesions in the first place, then to introduce stem cells for repair. I wonder if this group of researchers have decided how to address the formation of lesions in the first place. If this is not addressed, repairing the damage would have to be on going, would it not? Regardless, this is exciting.

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  2. I sufferred with progressive MS until practicing The Boulderstone Technique, after five days my body began to repair itself and for some the process is instant.All illness begins in the mind and when we return and address the trauma stored in the mind symptoms change as healing occurs. This tells me focus should be on the thought process and not the myelin. Cause and not sympton will aid prevention.

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