Researchers at the University of Alberta are one step closer to demonstrating that brain molecules called fractalkines can stop or reverse the effects of multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that erodes the myelin or fatty lining of nerve cells, damaging nerves and slowing the transmission of signals between the brain and the body. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis range from blurred vision to complete paralysis. There are treatments, but the cause is not fully understood and nothing can reverse the progression of the disease. According to the MS Society, more than 90,000 Canadians are living with MS.
In a new study published in stem cell report, Anastasia Voronova, Assistant Professor of Neural Stem Cell Biology and Canadian Research Commissioner, injected fractalkine into mice with chemically-induced multiple sclerosis.
She found that this treatment increased the number of new oligodendrocytes that were damaged during MS autoimmune attacks.
“It is believed that if the lost or damaged oligodendrocytes can be replaced, they can make new myelin, halting the progression of the disease or even reversing some of the symptoms. “It’s the holy grail of the research community and something we’re very passionate about.”
Voronova’s previous study tested the safety and efficacy of fractalkine in normal mice and found similar beneficial effects. Other researchers have demonstrated that fractalkines may be neuroprotective in mouse models before disease is induced, but this is the first time they’ve been tested in animals already suffering from the disease. .
Voronova and her team observed new oligodendrocytes and reactivated progenitor cells that could regenerate oligodendrocytes in the brains of treated animals. Remyelination occurred in both white and gray matter. Researchers also observed a reduction in inflammation, which is part of the damage caused by the immune system. Next steps in therapy include testing in mouse models of other diseases, including mice with neurodegenerative diseases other than MS.