Study of How the Brain Repairs Damage May Lead to New Multiple Sclerosis Treatments

Findings open the door for new therapeutic options for myelin regeneration in multiple sclerosis.

A landmark study revealed how the brain repairs damage, which could revolutionize the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Current treatment options for MS help limit relapses, but are unable to reverse the damage the disease has already caused.

In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, investigators uncovered the beneficial effect of immune cells in myelin repair that could potentially reverse myelin damage.

“This pioneering research, led by our team at Queen’s is an exciting collaboration of top scientists from different disciplines at Cambridge, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Maynooth, and Nice,” said senior author Dr Denise Fitzgerald. “It is by bringing together these experts from immunology, neuroscience, and stem cell biology that we have been able to make this landmark discovery.”

The investigators found that a protein made by certain cells within the immune system triggers stem cells in the brain to mature into oligodendrocytes that repair myelin.

“This is an important step forward in understanding how the brain and spinal cord is naturally repaired and opens up new therapeutic potential for myelin regeneration in patients,” Dr Fitzgerald. “We continue to work together to advance knowledge and push the boundaries of scientific knowledge for the benefits of patients and society, in a bid to change lives for the better, across the globe.”

The findings provide investigators with new knowledge that may lead to the development of medicines that boost these cells and develop a new class of treatments in the future.

“MS is an unpredictable and challenging condition, and we are committed to driving forward research to find effective treatments for everyone,” said Dr Sorrel Bickley, head of biomedical research and the MS Society. “This exciting study gives us an important understanding of how myelin repair can be promoted, which could open up new areas for treatment development. We welcome this international collaboration led by Northern Ireland, where rates of MS are amongst the highest in the world.”