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Control of Small Protein May Fight Myelin Damage in MS

Protein may fight myelin damage in MS

A research team has found that a small protein called endothelin-1 (ET-1) has the potential to be a player in the fight against myelin damage that occurs in people who have multiple sclerosis (MS). Part of that fight appears to the protein's role in preventing the repair of brain cells affected by the disease.

Remyelination, or the repair of the fatty sheath that protects axons (nerve cell fibers) in the brain, is a major goal of MS treatment, yet a successful approach has not yet been found. Now some promise is being shown by understanding the activity of ET-1, according to Vittorio Gallo, PhD, director of the Center for Neuroscience Research at Children’s National Health System, and his team.

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Endothelin-1 has long been recognized as a vasoconstrictor, which means it causes the muscle layer in the blood vessels to contract. This protein also has an ability to affect the central nervous system.

Gallo and his team identified ET-1 as a substance that inhibits the repair of myelin. Therefore, if scientists can find a way to stop ET-1’s activity via genetics or drugs, the result could promote remyelination in individuals who have MS.

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The body has natural healing powers and strives to regain balance in the presence of disease. Cells called oligodendrocytes naturally promote the production and repair of myelin, but this process malfunctions in people with MS.

Another possible approach to remyelination that has being explored is cell transplantation to replace oligodendrocytes.

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However, as Gallo and Franklin noted in another new study, “more recently therapeutic approaches that target the endogenous regeneration process have been favored.” This new discovery of the activities of ET-1 meet that criterion, as Gallo noted that it is “potentially a therapeutic target to promote lesions repair in demyelinated tissue” in MS and other diseases that involve damage to myelin.

Children's National Medical Center. "Protein identified that has potential to repair damaged brain tissue in multiple sclerosis."Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 11 Feb. 2014. Web.
Franklin RJ, Gallo V. The translational biology of remyelination: past, present, and future. Glia 2014 Jan 20
Marasciulo FL et al. Endothelin-1: the yin and yang on vascular function, Current Medicinal Chemistry 2006; 13(14): 1655-65

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