Multiple Sclerosis Trigger Uncovered, What Next?

2012-12-03 18:08
Multiple Sclerosis Trigger Uncovered, What Next?

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive, degenerative autoimmune disease that has challenged scientists who are searching for its causes and how to prevent this devastating condition. Now a research team has uncovered an important multiple sclerosis trigger that could open doors to new prevention and treatment opportunities.

Multiple sclerosis discovery is significant

More than 2 million people around the world suffer with multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease that affects the spinal cord and brain, damages nerve cells, and causes an array of serious symptoms that can be debilitating. Currently there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, and ways to prevent the disease are also unknown.

Hot on the trail of better understanding multiple sclerosis is a team from the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease at the University of California--San Francisco (UCSF), who used an advanced imaging technique to observe the nerve damage occurring in mice with multiple sclerosis. Their observations led them to identify what appears to be a trigger for multiple sclerosis.

The trigger is a protein (fibrinogen) that has clotting abilities and which is also able to cross the blood-brain barrier (a membrane-like barrier that protects the brain). Once through the barrier, fibrinogen can prompt the immune system to create an environment that damages the nerve cells and thus start the cascade of symptoms characteristic of the disease.

In addition to identifying the protein, the investigators also uncovered a way to stop it from setting off the immune response without taking away the protein's beneficial function, which is to help clot the blood.

A unique feature of this latest research is that scientists were able to view individual cells in the living spinal cords and brains of mice in real time and thus watch the nerve cells function throughout different stages of the disease. Previous imaging techniques have used still images of nerve damage.

According to Katerina Akassoglou, professor in neurology at UCSF, "To successfully treat MS, we must first identify what triggers the disease and what enables its progression." Akassoglou and her team appear to have made a significant advance in this area.

Other important finding in this study
In addition to identifying fibrinogen as the main protein trigger for multiple sclerosis and observing how it can lead to damaged nerve cells, the scientists also found a way to stop the leakage. This discovery is especially critical, because if scientists can target the fibrinogen activity, they could eventually develop "a new therapeutic strategy," according to Akassoglou.

In the study, the investigators found that when they genetically altered the fibrinogen in the mice with multiple sclerosis, the protein failed to trigger the response that leads to nerve damage. However, the modification did not prevent fibrinogen from conducting its beneficial function of helping blood clot.

The bottom line
Although this latest discovery does not give clinicians a cure for multiple sclerosis, it does significantly enhance what is known about the disease and provides a novel avenue for scientists to explore ways to prevent and stop progression of the disease.

SOURCE:
Davalos D et al. Fibrinogen-induced perivascular microglial clustering is required for the development of axonal damage in neuroinflammation. Nature Communications 2012 Nov; article no. 1227; doi:10.1038/ncomms2230

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Comments

I'm so tired of hearing promising sounding results just to find that they've not been studying multiple sclerosis at all but instead some animal model like EAE. Go home, start over, study MS!!!
Keep up the good work. Another puzzle piece falls into place.
Congratulations! you have discovered the amyloid (AD) equivalent in MS. I predict a cure resulting from the research in ....NEVER. This kind of research illustrate that UCSF is as much on the drug company dole as Harvard. Shameful really. And no doubt the reseachers are patting each other on the back as this will lead to a gravy train of funding for the helpless public sector. Try googling David Wheldon of England if you would like to understand a bit about the causes and treatment of MS. No one wants to promote this kind of work because the drug companies are not interested in root causes and cures.
Listen, I actually searched through David Wheldon's website, and even though I might not be a doctor, I can tell that this investigation DOES NOT contradict his findings. As far as I can tell, what this investigation finds out is the cause FOR THE INFLAMMATION, not the cause for Multiple Sclerosis per se. I would say they complement each other.
Thank you. I, also, am not a physician, but agree that Wheldon's work and the current study are not a contradiction. Politics are very much a part of healthcare, medicine, and medical research. Until (if ever) we can change this, healthcare consumers need to do as much research as possible on their own on all sides of an issue, conventional, alternative, and complementary, and consider those who think outside the box when looking for information about any health issue. It's not easy, nor does it seem fair, but it also seems to be reality.
i appreciate everyone's comment. my point is that infection is at the root at the ucsf upstream. treat at the root and upstream markers rectify...... we are spending too much time in the middle of the physiology and pathology of disease and not enough time at the genesis.....
Thank you for clarifying the point of your original comment....and I agree scientists and others often neglect or miss addressing the core or genesis of an illness or disease and waste precious time on tinkering with the consequences.
I am not diagnosed with MS however I've had flare ups twice a year for the past 4 years. My flare up have all the MS symptoms and were accompanied with thrombus of superficial veins in my thigh. I have learned that I have a deleted gene that can cause thrombosis. I believe that my MS (I'll say it) triggers thrombosis or it may be the other way around. They both came together and lasted 4 to 8 weeks at a shot and always in March- April / Oct,-Nov. timeframe. I do see a Neurologist and had a spine MRI but I think its time to look at the brain. One more point, since my last bout in the spring I was placed on a blood thinner. Xlarato ?? and as I'm writing this I clearly had an MS (or something else ) but no thrombosis. Both have been very painful to deal with and it seems I have a new symptom to deal with every year for example Optic migraine , ringing the ears besides the painful joint/bone/muscle pain.
Thank you for your comments.If you have not already done so, I encourage you to express your desire to explore a possible brain connection by talking to your doctor. Also, it may help to join or follow an MS forum or support group. And by all means, keep up with the latest studies and research and never be afraid to ask questions of healthcare professionals. Good luck and better health to you.