Research moves closer to unraveling mystery cause of multiple sclerosis

A new study has made a major new discovery towards finding the cause of multiple sclerosis (MS), potentially paving the way for research to investigate new treatments. Ahead of MS Awareness Week, which starts today, an international team involving the University of Exeter Medical School and the University of Alberta has discovered a new cellular mechanism - an underlying defect in brain cells - that may cause the disease, and a potential hallmark that may be a target for future treatment of the autoimmune disorder.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation and part funded by the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.

Professor Paul Eggleton, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: "Multiple sclerosis can have a devastating impact on people's lives, affecting mobility, speech, mental ability and more. So far, all medicine can offer is treatment and therapy for the symptoms - as we do not yet know the precise causes, research has been limited. Our exciting new findings have uncovered a new avenue for researchers to explore. It is a critical step, and in time, we hope it might lead to effective new treatments for MS."

Multiple sclerosis affects around 2.5 million people around the world. Typically, people are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, and it is more common in women than men.

Although the cause has so far been a mystery, the disease causes the body's own immune system to attack myelin - the fatty "sheaths" that protect nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This leads to brain damage, a reduction in blood supply and oxygen and the formation of lesions in the body. Symptoms can be wide-ranging, and can include muscle spasms, mobility problems, pain, fatigue, and problems with speech.

Scientists have long suspected that mitochondria, the energy-creating "powerhouse" of the cell, plays a link in causing multiple sclerosis.

The joint Exeter-Alberta research team was the first to combine clinical and laboratory experiments to explain how mitochondria becomes defective in people with MS. Using human brain tissue samples, they found that a protein called Rab32 is present in large quantities in the brains of people with MS, but is virtually absent in healthy brain cells.

Where Rab32 is present, the team discovered that a part of the cell that stores calcium (endoplasmic reticulum or ER) gets too close to the mitochondria. The resulting miscommunication with the calcium supply triggers the mitochondria to misbehave, ultimately causing toxicity for brain cells people with MS.

Researchers do not yet know what causes an unwelcome influx of Rab32 but they believe the defect could originate at the base of the ER organelle.

The finding will enable scientists to search for effective treatments that target Rab32 and embark on determining whether there are other proteins that may pay a role in triggering MS.

Dr David Schley, Research Communications Manager at the MS Society, said: "No one knows for sure why people develop MS and we welcome any research that increases our understanding of how to stop it. There are currently no treatments available for many of the more than 100,000 people in the UK who live with this challenging and unpredictable condition. We want people with MS to have a range of treatments to choose from, and be able to get the right treatment at the right time."

Haile Y, Deng X, Ortiz-Sandoval C, Tahbaz N, Janowicz A, Lu JQ, Kerr BJ, Gutowski NJ, Holley JE, Eggleton P, Giuliani F, Simmen T.
Rab32 connects ER stress to mitochondrial defects in multiple sclerosis.
J Neuroinflammation. 2017 Jan 23;14(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s12974-016-0788-z.

Most Popular Now

Sanofi and Regeneron announce FDA Approval of Kevz…

Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. have announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Kevzara® (sarilumab) for the treatment of adult patients...

Read more

FDA approves first cancer treatment for any solid …

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today granted accelerated approval to a treatment for patients whose cancers have a specific genetic feature (biomarker). This is th...

Read more

FDA approves drug to treat ALS

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Radicava (edaravone) to treat patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's...

Read more

AstraZeneca marks a key milestone with the ‘toppin…

AstraZeneca marks a key milestone in its successful move to Cambridge, UK, with the 'topping out' of its new, state-of-the-art, strategic R&D centre and global corporate ...

Read more

Imfinzi significantly reduces the risk of disease …

AstraZeneca and MedImmune, its global biologics research and development arm, today announced positive results for the Phase III PACIFIC trial, a randomised, double-blind...

Read more

Abbott announces CE Mark and first use of the worl…

Abbott (NYSE: ABT) today announced CE Mark and first use of the new Confirm RxTM Insertable Cardiac Monitor (ICM), the world's first smartphone compatible ICM that will h...

Read more

Antibiotic doxycycline may offer hope for treatmen…

A study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that doxycycline, an antibiotic used for over half a century against bacterial infections, can be prescribed ...

Read more

Novartis exercises exclusive option agreement with…

Novartis announced today that it has notified Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc., of its exercise of the option to an exclusive license for the global development and commercia...

Read more

High levels of exercise linked to nine years of le…

Despite their best efforts, no scientist has ever come close to stopping humans from aging. Even anti-aging creams can't stop Old Father Time. But new research from Brigh...

Read more

Vitamin A deficiency is detrimental to blood stem …

Many specialized cells, such as in the skin, gut or blood, have a lifespan of only a few days. Therefore, steady replenishment of these cells is indispensable. They arise...

Read more

Nearly 1 in 3 drugs found to have safety concerns …

How often are safety concerns raised about a drug after it's been approved by the FDA? Nicholas Downing, MD, of the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital...

Read more

Alzheimer's experts call for changes in FDA drug a…

Leading Alzheimer's disease researchers and a prominent patient advocate today published an analysis, "Single Endpoint for New Drug Approvals for Alzheimer's Disease," ur...

Read more

Pharmaceutical Companies

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z ]