Disease Similar To MS Discovered In Monkeys

Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University have reported that they have discovered a disease that affects monkeys that may also likely be similar to multiple sclerosis in humans. The discovery can help scientists in further understand how multiple sclerosis develops in humans and its underlying cause. The findings were published on the Annals of Neurology online journal.

The said disease that the researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center of OHSU discovered in monkeys is associated with a type of herpes virus. This may help provide some clues into how MS develops in humans since there is a widely held belief that multiple sclerosis may be triggered by a type of herpes virus in people who are genetically susceptible to the said disease.

According to Scott Wong, PhD, a scientist at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and the Oregon National Primate Research Center and a senior author of the study, “These findings could have a huge impact on our understanding of MS and could be a landmark in someday developing more effective treatments for the disease, or even methods to prevent the onset of MS.”

What makes the OHSU discovery important to MS researchers is that they may now have the means to study the said disease in its naturally occurring state. Prior to the OHSU discovery of the MS-like disease in monkeys, MS researchers have been able to study similar diseases on non-human primates and only after it has been artificially induced. The newly discovered MS-like disease will enable the researchers to better understand its causes and development.

The said disease was found in a small number of Japanese macaques at the OHSU each year. Dating from 1986 to 2010, there were 56 Japanese macaque monkeys at the center that were afflicted by the disease. The monkeys developed paralysis on their hind limbs along with displaying other symptoms. After the monkeys dies, the researchers did necropsies on the bodies and performed MRI scans on eight of the monkeys.

The testings allowed the researchers to determine that the paralysis of the limbs found in the affected monkeys was caused by the MS-like disease that they called Japanese macaque encephalomyelitis. The said disease are typically found in young adult monkeys, although it was also seen in juveniles as well as older monkeys. The said disease affected both male and female primates. Around 1 to 3 percent of around 300 Japanese macaques at the center develops the disease each year, according to researchers.

The discovery will be able to help find ways to prevent and treat the disease in the monkeys. This might also be of help to researchers finding other possible treatments for MS in humans. Additionally, since the primate disease is triggered by a herpes virus, MS researchers may now be able to find comparisons while searching for similar types of herpes virus in human MS patients.

Source: Oregon Health & Science University (2011, June 29). Multiple sclerosis-like disease discovered in monkeys. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 5, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110628163321.htm

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