HEADLINES Published February20, 2015 By Staff Reporter

Is This Drug The Answer To Multiple Sclerosis?

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Brain Scan
(Photo : Handout/ Getty Images Sport)

Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive neurological disease affecting more than 2.3 million people worldwide. National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines it as a unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the communication pathway within the brain and between the body and the brain.

However, based on a new study published in the journal, "Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology", researchers were able to find a way to reduce nerve cell damage hence reversing the effects of MS to the body. Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have discovered a promising new approach in multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment. They were able to identify an unknown change in the spinal cord that is linked to MS. Subsequently, they were able to reverse the change to reduce nerve damage.

This research could be the answer to the long-awaited cure for MS and could lead to the development of new types of drugs to treat it. Dr. Fang Liu, Senior Scientist in CAMH's Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto has led the study.

Currently, the exact cause and etiology of the disease is still unclear. However, theories pointed out that it may be caused by an autoimmune response that leads to inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. Inflammation may lead to the destruction of a fatty acid called myelin. Myelin is responsible in the protection of nerve fibers from damage. When this happens, nerve fibers, nerve cells and even oligodendrocytes (produces myelin) are damaged.

Hence, the communication pathway from and to the brain becomes disrupted. As a result, patients with the condition experience a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, muscle weakness, pain, coordination problems, impaired balance, visual problems and tremors.

In the study, they analyzed and examined spinal cord tissues from MS patients and animals who died of the disease. They were able to identify an alteration in the spinal cord that involves a protein or peptide that binds to a specific cell receptor associated with glutamate, a neurotransmitter in the body.

The researchers created a new peptide, which is a tiny protein, to try and disrupt the change in their animal models with MS. Dr. Liu said as reported by Medical News Today, "We found that our peptide disrupted this linkage, and led to major improvements in neurological functioning." 

The peptide had a positive impact on nerve cell damage and even reduced neuron death. The protective coating of neurons called myelin was saved from damage. Also, oligodendrocytes damage were also reduced.

Dr. Liu points out that even though many drugs that target glutamate receptors affect with nerve cell signaling in the brain, the newly created peptide do not have this effect and did not suppress the immune system. 

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