Repairing Nerve Damage in Multiple Sclerosis

Scientists have discovered a protein secreted by immune cells which regenerates lost myelin in damaged nerve fibres

Multiple sclerosis affects around 2.3 million people around the globe, and is caused by an autoimmune response that progressively destroys the protective myelin shield around nerve fibres. Drugs approaches to the disorder have improved in recent years, in addition to highly effective but risky cell therapy treatments. 

An exciting new treatment avenue

Now, researchers are Queen's University Belfast have discovered that a type of immune cell called T-regulatory cells release a protein called CCN3 which appears to regenerative myelin. Using a mouse model of MS, the team found that transplantation of T-reg immune cells induced myelin regrowth in degenerated nerves - stimulating stem cells in the brain to mature into oligodendrocytes, which produce myelin. On closer analysis the main mediating signal appeared to be CCN3, which is known to regulate cell growth but not previously connected to myelin production. 

“This exciting study gives us an important understanding of how myelin repair can be promoted, which could open up new areas for treatment development”

While this is extremely promising in theory, it will require rigorous testing to move onto the next stage and be applied to human patients. Furthermore, it would likely not necessarily prevent further deterioration of nerve fibres permanently, which would require deactivating the faulty autoimmune reaction. 

Read more at The Financial Times