How MS starts refuted by new study finding
Researchers say they now have evidence that multiple sclerosis doesn’t start with myelin damage that enwraps nerve cells. Instead, they propose, from new studies on mice, that demylelinization is a result of the disease and not how MS starts.
No one really knows how multiple sclerosis begins, but it’s generally thought to be an autoimmune disease that attacks myelin in the brain and spinal cord.
MS has been thought to be a neurodegenerative disease that that starts with myelin destruction. The authors said in a press release, “In this scenario, the immune response against myelin would be the result – and not the cause – of this pathogenic process.”
Some patients exhibit signs of the disease without any evidence of an attack on the immune system.
For the current study researchers sought to prove or disprove that multiple sclerosis starts with degeneration of myelin.
Through a series of what they described as genetic tricks, the scientists induced myelin damage in the mice without altering the immune system.
Burkhard Becher, a professor at the University of Zurich said, “At the beginning of our study, we found myelin damage that strongly resembled the previous observations in MS patients. However, not once were we able to observe an MS-like autoimmune disease."
Next they conducted a series of other experiments to determine if a combination of infection and active immunity caused the disease.
The experiment failed, because no matter how strongly the researchers stimulated the immune system, they were unable to detect symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
"In light of these and other new findings, research on the pathogenesis of MS is bound to concentrate less on the brain and more on the immune system in future," says Professor Thorsten Buch from the Technischen Universität München.
The new findings refute the hypothesis that MS is a brain disease that does not start with destruction of myelin. The study authors say myelin damage seen with multiple sclerosis could not occur without an attack on the immune system.
Giuseppe Locatelli, et al.
“Primary oligodendrocyte death does not elicit anti-CNS immunity”.
Nature Neuroscience, 2012; DOI:10.1038/nn.3062
February 26, 2012
Image credit: Wikimedia commons