Protein May Help Repair Brain Damage Caused By MS

A study suggests that a type of protein that helps build the brain in infants and children may also be able to help in the effort to restore damage in the brain caused by multiple sclerosis. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that a protein known as CXCR4 is essential for the repair of myelin, a protective sheath that provides insulation to nerve cell branches. The damage to myelin is linked to MS and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The said study involved a mouse model where the mice subjects were given food containing cuprizone, a compound that kills oligodendrocytes, cells that form myelin in the central nervous system. The non-inflammatory model, conducted by senior author Robyn Klein, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of neurobiology and first author and postdoctoral fellow Jigisha Patel, PhD, was used because previous mice models make it hard to understand the nature of myelin repair and to what the brain does during the said process.

The study was initiated by prior investigations on processes triggered by dying oligodendrocytes . The dying cells activate other support cells found in the brain which causes them to express inflammatory factors. The levels of an inflammatory factor receptor CXCR4 peaked at six weeks. When researchers continued feeding the mice with cuprizone for 12 weeks, the level of inflammatory factors and its receptors drop significantly. By the same time period, the mice were no longer able to restore myelin. This suggests that there must be a connection between CXCR4 and myelin repair.

According to Klein, “This was a surprise, because the main thing CXCR4 has been known for is its role in forming the brain, not healing the brain. But we did know that injury increases the number of brain cells that make CXCR4, so it wasn’t an unreasonable place to look.”

The researchers also showed that cells known to become oligodendrocytes also express high levels of CXCR4. When researchers blocked the activation of CXCR4 or reduced the ability of cells to make it, the mice were unable to restore myelin. The cells that become oligodendrocytes stayed within the ventricles a noncellular area in the brian filled with cerebrospinal fluid. They grew in number but did not move to the areas where myelin repair is required. It showed that CXCR4 somehow plays a role in this and may be essential for cells to develop into mature oligodendrocytes and repair myelin.

Source: Washington University School of Medicine. “Protein Lets Brain Repair Damage from Multiple Sclerosis, Other Disorders.” ScienceDaily 8 June 2010. 15 June 2010 <http://www.sciencedaily.comĀ­ /releases/2010/06/100607192727.htm>

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