Myelin repair is possible. Myelin is the protective coating or sheath around the nerve fibres in the central nervous system. Our bodies are constantly repairing damage but, is myelin repair possible?
If you are living with MS, you may experience long-term disability from the myelin damage caused by MS.
In 2005, in response to a pressing need to investigate potential treatments for MS, the MS Society set up the Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair. Two years later we set up the Edinburgh Centre for Translational Research with the aim of converting findings from the laboratory into treatments for people with the condition. Researchers at the two centres have worked closely together and results so far have exceeded expectations.
Laboratory findings offer hope of myelin repair
A recent study by researchers at Mayo Clinic’s campuses in Jacksonville, Fla. and Scottsdale, Ariz. has found that transplanting oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs), derived from human embryonic stem cells, may be an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). Although this is just one small clinical trial, the results are significant, since they represent the first known evidence that neural stem cell transplantation can remyelinate damaged axons in humans.
The two teams looked at ways that the brain’s own stem cells repair myelin in laboratory models of MS and in human brain tissue from the MS Society Tissue Bank. The research showed that drugs can target a molecule called RXR-gamma, to encourage the brain’s own stem cells to repair damaged myelin.
This discovery could lead to treatment that could halt or even reverse the disabling effects of MS and make a huge difference to the lives of people living with the condition.
With the help of MS Society supporters, Professor Franklin’s team can continue their work, focusing on turning their discovery into a therapy that will promote myelin damage repair in people with MS.
This involves testing the drug that targets RXR-gamma in the laboratory alluding to, in around three years, a clinical trial to see if this drug is safe and effective in practice.
if we can show that drugs targeting RXR-gamma can promote myelin repair in people with MS, then it should be around 10 or 15 years from a therapy. This is one of the most exciting recent developments for people living with MS.Professor Franklin
It is my opinion that all cells in the body have the capacity to regenerate. In MS the immune system is attacking the myelin causing damage to the nerve fibre coating. When this attack stops or declines the cells regenerate and the symptoms recede.
This accounts for the interminable cycle of relapse and remission typical of the early Multiple Sclerosis disease. If the stimulus aggravating the immune system can be removed the attacks on the myelin will stop and recovery will be the natural outcome.
However, it should be noted that not all cells can regenerate. Neurons, in general, do not regenerate.
Why does a person develop MS?
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The brain’s billions of nerve cells make trillions of connections with each other. These are called synapses. These chemical signals are carried by specific messenger substances called neurotransmitters (or simply “transmitters”).
This is the crux of the matter. The truth is, that nobody really knows why one person develops MS yet, other people with similar lifestyles don’t.
However, I have come to accept that diet plays a very important role in this disease. But, a poor diet cannot account for anyone individual developing MS.
Furthermore, there are many people with dreadful dietary habits and appalling lifestyles who never succumb to MS.
With hindsight, I now believe that I have always had Multiple Sclerosis. It is a condition I was born with. There have been many tell-tale signs along the way, most too insignificant to have registered with me, at the time.
While I was young my body was healthy, cell regeneration was optimal. Any damage caused by the immune system was quickly repaired.
As I aged this cell replication slowed and the cumulative damage appeared. There must be a genetic, heredity element at play here. My mother has MS and one of her aunts had s different neuralgic condition with symptoms not unlike those of MS.
Most people develop MS in their thirties which would correlate with my hypothesis. It does not explain the predisposition that certain individuals have for this debilitating condition.
I have further observed, and it may be unconnected, that cognitive impairment can advance and recede. This would suggest that either myelin damage is reversible or myelin damage never occurred and inflammation was causing the impairment.
While medical science knows that the body can repair myelin. They don’t fully understand why this myelin repair doesn’t work so well in Multiple Sclerosis.
Myelin is made by special nervous system cells called oligodendrocytes.
Researchers have discovered that a protein called pleiotrophin is released when myelin is damaged. This protein would appear to work with the oligodendrocytes to build new myelin.