Study Suggests Starving Immune Cells Slows Down MS Damage

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that is brought about by damage done to the myelin sheath, the protective layer that surrounds nerve cells. It leads to the nerve cells experiencing impaired ability to send signals from the brain to the other parts of the body and vice versa, resulting in physical and neurological disabilities. Unfortunately, MS currently has no cure and researchers are trying to find and discover different ways to treat this disease.

While the cure for MS still eludes researchers, there are other approaches that have been found in order to either lessen or slow down the effects of MS on people who suffer from them. One recent report suggests that starving out immune cells which mistakenly attack the myelin sheath may be effective in trying to slow down the damage caused by MS. This new MS research was recently published in the Scientific Reports journal.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences suggests that inhibiting the ability of immune cells to make use of fatty acids as fuel may be effective in slowing the progression of MS in a mouse model. Marianne Manchester, PhD, professor of pharmacy and Leah P. Shriver, PhD. and first author of the said study, looked into how immune cells in the Central Nervous System try to oxidize fatty acids for energy in the absence of their main fuel source, glucose, which usually occurs when tissues are inflamed.

In studying a mouse model of multiples sclerosis, the two researchers were able to discover that by inhibiting a single enzyme that aids immune cells in making use of fatty acids for fuel, the said cells eventually starve and die out, preventing further inflammatory damage to the tissues in the process. The enzyme inhibitor that the researchers used in the said study is a drug that was already tested in humans suffering from congestive heart failure.

There are currently no other approved drugs or MS therapies that targets fatty acid metabolism of the immune cells. And because the new approach targets a single specific enzyme, the researchers believe that it may not likely be associated with certain adverse side effects.

Shriver adds, “We expect that because immune cells not in lesions in the CNS are able to use available glucose, they will function just fine during infection and that inhibition of this pathway would not produce general immune suppression.”

Currently, the researchers are using mass spectrometry to find out whether the results of their study are also just as effective in humans. “We are interested in determining how this pathway is utilized in human tissue samples from MS patients,” Manchester further stated.

Source: University of California – San Diego (2011, September 2). Starving inflammatory immune cells slows damage caused by multiple sclerosis, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 6, 2011, from

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