Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most progressive autoimmune diseases that affect the central nervous system where the immune system attacks the myelin sheath that covers the nerve fibers and causes impairment in the communication between the brain and the body.
Some of its symptoms include tremors, numbness, or weakness in limbs, blurry vision, and slurred speech.
MS usually onset between 20- 30 years of age and it worsens over time. It is usually presented as attacks that progress and inevitably leads to a gradual functional loss.
“Despite these important breakthroughs, the disease generally worsens when the patient has had it for 10 to 20 years,” says Maja Jagodic, docent of experimental medicine at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience and the Centre for Molecular Medicine, Karolinska Institutet. “There is currently only one, recently approved, treatment for what is called the secondary progressive phase. The mechanisms behind this progressive phase require more research.”
Recently Researchers at Karolinska Institutet published a study at Science Immunology that discovered that Microglia- the CNS’s immune cells have a role in the progression of the disease.
The microglia is responsible for clearing the remains of damaged cells as myelin, an autophagy gene Atg7 is involved in this process as well. Autophagy is a process of programmed cell death done normally by the cells and microglia use it in the clearance process.
Researchers found that when the autophage gene Atg7 is removed in mice, this reduced the ability of microglia to break down and clear away the tissue remains when inflammation occurs. The microglia in aged mice resembles the ones in young mice that lack that gene in the reduction of the process which leads to the accumulation of tissue remains and progression of the disease.
Credit: Mayo Clinic
This is not the only outcome of the study, they also showed how this process can be reversed.
Trehalose a sugar derived from plants and fungi can be used as a treatment to increase the myelin clearance and decrease the progression of MS
“The plant and fungi-derived sugar Trehalose restores the functional breakdown of myelin residues, stops the progression and leads to recovery from MS-like disease.” says doctoral student Rasmus Berglund. “By enhancing this process we hope one day to be able to treat and prevent age-related aspects of neuroinflammatory conditions.”
To understand more about multiple sclerosis, watch the video below.