Have you heard of remyelination? It might be important if you have multiple sclerosis.
A recent study in mice demonstrated the potential in remyelination, which is the growth of lost myelin.
The ability to regrow myelin could reverse the damages caused by multiple sclerosis (MS).
Simple gestures such as picking up the phone, walking, eating, and drinking require messages from the brain to the muscles and nerves. Messages throughout the body are sent via nerve synapses. When these synapses are unable to connect, the messages fail.
Nerves are protected by a fatty myelin sheath. As MS attacks and progresses, it destroys these sheaths and leaves the body vulnerable.
Signals get crossed and information lost. Simple tasks become huge ordeals or sometimes impossible.
MS can be a progressive disease and its course can be ruthless.
Once the damage is done, there’s been no hope of reversal. But now this recent look at growing myelin shows some potential for humans.
Applying mice to men
“Mouse studies enable scientists to study [deep into the] nervous system in an invasive nature that simply wouldn’t be possible to do in humans,” Claude Schofield, PhD, director of discovery research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, told Healthline.
Schofield explained how once the discoveries have been made in mice, they can then be looked at in human cells.
“Eventually, targets identified in the laboratory can be developed and tested for their ability to stimulate myelin repair in people,” said Schofield.
This initial study out of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center looked at the peripheral nervous system — the nerves that connect spinal cord to muscles and organs.
“The researchers intend to investigate the central nervous system — the brain and spinal cord — which is the system attacked during the course of MS,” said Schofield.
This is one small study showing potential, but increasingly, research in the field has led to “many recent strides in understanding the mechanisms that drive myelin growth and repair, in health and disease states like MS,” explained Schofield.
Importance of remyelination
Schofield explained the importance of remyelination.
“Many believe that restoring myelin can protect the underlying axons from major damage and preserve the health of the nerve, and also restore nerve signaling which is facilitated by myelin,” he said.
“This holds potential for restoring function that’s been lost because of interrupted nerve signaling during the course of multiple sclerosis,” he added.
People with progressive MS experience serious symptoms and often lose basic body functions.
Rebuilding myelin could potentially restore these lost functions and significantly increase quality of life.
The future of remyelination
“Hundreds of scientists are focusing on [researching myelin] and strategies for repairing myelin. It’s only been in the last few years that basic research has begun to be translated to human clinical trials of experimental strategies to repair myelin,” explained Schofield.
In recent years, the tools have significantly improved and allow for better screening of compounds. This speeds up the identification of new myelin-promoting candidates that could be tested in clinical trials.
“So I think we’ll continue to see promising myelin repair strategies coming through the therapeutic pipeline,” stated Schofield.
This past Wednesday, March 28, marked the first Progressive MS Day.
Created by Can Do Multiple Sclerosis, #ProgressiveMSDay was designed to highlight those living with the disease. It was promoted throughout social media by all kinds of people living with MS.
MS is a snowflake disease and no two are alike. Progression may and can take place, taking the most invisible disease and placing it in a wheelchair.
It’s understood that most people with relapsing MS will experience a progression in disability. Many others begin with this progression. Research and upcoming treatments for relapsing MS continue, but progressive MS is stubborn.
No answers today on how to rebuild the myelin, but the race has started.