A substance that the pancreas secretes can promote the regeneration of the protective nerve-cell coating that is damaged in multiple sclerosis, a mouse study shows.
The substance is fibroblast growth factor 21, or FGF21. It promotes remyelination, the renewal of the myelin sheath protecting the central nervous system, according to the study.
Researchers said the results indicate that scientists may be able to develop a therapy around FGF21 to treat diseases characterized by loss of myelin, including MS.
The study, “Peripherally derived FGF21 promotes remyelination in the central nervous system,” was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Loss of myelin underlies several neurological diseases. The damage can be repaired with remyelination unless it has reached a certain point, however.
In normal development, what scientists call oligodendrocyte precursor cells become oligodendrocytes, whose major function is generating myelin. When a nervous system injury leads to the depletion of myelin, the precursor cells start to proliferate, the first step in remyelination.
At one point, scientists thought the blood-brain barrier would prevent factors that could contribute to remyelination from reaching the central nervous system. The assumption was that such factors had to originate in the nervous system.
Osaka University researchers hypothesized that neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis might disrupt the blood-brain barrier.
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