A recent study suggests that in the future multiple sclerosis patients could benefit from treatments intended to boost their brain function. The study was published in Nature Neuroscience and received funding from The Wellcome Trust, the Lister Research Prize and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
According to researchers, patients suffering from multiple sclerosis could benefit from an increase of neuronal activity, as it can stimulate the production of a substance whose function is to protect nerve fibers. This finding could open doors for new treatments and approaches.
Information is transmitted in the brain through axons, also known as nerve fibers. A material known as myelin forms a layer around axons, keeping them healthy and helping to accelerate the transfer of information. When there is myelin damage, diseases such as multiple sclerosis can occur. How brain activity controls myelin production was not clear in the past.
However, in this study, researchers managed to examine how modifications in the activity of neurons can affect the amount of myelin production in the brains of zebrafish. The team found that reduced brain function resulted in a decreased amount of total myelin production, a situation that was inverted by 40 percent when fish neuronal activity was increased. Nonetheless, before translating these results into novel therapies, researchers need to have a deeper understanding of how brain function controls the processes of coating axons with myelin.
“We have a long way to go before we fully understand how our brain activity regulates myelin production, but the fact that this is even something that the brain can do is a good news story. We are hopeful that one day in the future we may be able to translate this type of discovery to help treat disease and to maintain a healthy nervous system through life,” explained David Lyons that led this study.
MS Society’s representative, Dr Emma Gray, concluded: “The more we learn about how myelin production happens in the brain, the more chance we have of developing effective and targeted therapies to repair myelin in people with MS.”
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