New breakthroughs could help make multiple sclerosis history

Washington: Researchers are gaining a new level of understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS), which could lead to new treatments and approaches to controlling the chronic disease.

The new findings show that scientists are one step closer to understanding how antibodies in the blood stream break past the brain's protective barrier to attack the optic nerves, spinal cord, and brain, causing the symptoms of neuromyelitis optica, a rare disease similar to MS.

Understanding how the antibodies bypass the protective blood-brain barrier could provide new approaches to treating the disease (Yukio Takeshita, MD, PhD, abstract 404.09).

A protein involved in blood clotting mightserve as an early detection method for MS before symptoms occur. Early detection of the disease could lead to more effective early treatments ( Katerina Akassoglou, PhD, abstract 404.11).

Low levels of a cholesterol protein correlate with the severity of a patient's MS in both human patients and mouse models.

The finding suggests the protein, known to protect against inflammation, may protect against developing MS, and possibly even aid in the regeneration of damaged neurons. This research opens the door to cholesterol drugs as a possible new avenue for MS treatment (Lidia Gardner, PhD, abstract 404.01).

A type of immune system cell has been found to directly target and damage nerve cell axons, a hallmark of MS. This may reveal a target for new therapies (Brian Sauer, PhD, presentation 404.06).

While no treatments to rebuild cells damaged by MS currently exist, scientists have found that when exosomes - tiny, naturally occurring "nanovesicles" - are produced by dendritic cells and applied to the brain, they can deliver a mixture of proteins and RNAs that promote regeneration of protective myelin sheaths and guard against MS symptoms ( Richard Kraig , MD, PhD, presentation 812.02).