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Brain cell insight into multiple sclerosis

Wednesday January 20th 2021

British scientists have reported new discoveries about neuronal damage during the progression of multiple sclerosis.

In multiple sclerosis, neurodegeneration is seen on brain scans and is linked to long-term disability. Neurodegeneration is linked to both inflammation and a removal of the myelin sheaths around neurons, but its cause has so far been unknown, limiting treatment options.

Now, Professor Anna Williams of the University of Edinburgh, UK, and her team have examined changes to specific components of neurons.

They analysed post-mortem brain tissue samples from people with multiple sclerosis and found a "dramatic reduction" in the number of inhibitory neurons. However, the number of stimulating neurons remained the same.

The team also tested mice with demyelination - loss of the myelin sheaths around neurons - and found the same selective loss of inhibitory neurons. Details appeared last week in Acta Neuropathologica.

“Our research has shown that a specific type of neuron, called an inhibitory interneuron, is damaged in people with multiple sclerosis," reported Professor Williams.

"This is really important because, in the search for new treatments, it focuses our efforts on trying to stop the damage and death of these special cells. Our next step is to convert this knowledge into new treatments that protect nerves and prevent neurodegeneration – and ultimately disability – in people living with multiple sclerosis.”

Dr Emma Gray of the MS Society commented: “We need to find ways to prevent immune attacks, repair myelin and protect nerves from damage. We believe this study represents a vital step in our mission to stop multiple sclerosis."

Zoupi, L. et al. Selective vulnerability of inhibitory networks in multiple sclerosis. Acta Neuropathologica 15 January 2021; doi: 10.1007/s00401-020-02258-z

[abstract]

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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