Multiple Sclerosis Treatment - New Discoveries May Lead To Another Treatment Strategy

New insights into the methods in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system in patients affected by Multiple Sclerosis (MS) have been discovered by researchers in Germany, who used imaging tools which enable the investigation of processes within living organisms.

MS is an incurable autoimmune disease which causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system, resulting in weakened muscles, difficulties in walking, sensations of numbness, as well as visual disturbances. The research was conducted by Dr. Volker Siffrin and Professor Dr. Frauke Zipp of the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany (formerly known as the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch), who were able to demonstrate a direct interaction between immune cells and neurons, which resulted in the neuronal damage associated with MS.

The discovery was made by Professor Zipp and her colleagues through the use of two-photon laser scanning microscopy (TPLSM), which allowed them to study the role played by immune cells in the damage to neurons in mice affected by Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE), which is an animal model of MS. “The contribution of direct neuronal damage to MS pathology has been debated since the first description of the disease. Although many different theories about possible underlying mechanisms have been proposed – such as neuron damage being a secondary effect of the disrupted myelin sheath – actual events leading to neural damage are not well understood. Our use of in vivo imaging during disease has led to the characterization of neuronal dysfunction as early and potentially reversible, and suggests that immune-mediated disturbances of the neurons themselves contribute to multiple sclerosis, in addition to interruptions in nerve cell transmission as a result of changes to the myelin sheath,” said Professor Zipp.

Professor Zipp also believes that this discovery may lead to a potential target for future therapeutics, although she expects it will take years of research in order to ascertain whether or not such a strategy will actually work in the treatment of MS.

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