Treatment with a small molecule could delay the damage that multiple sclerosis inflicts in the brain and other parts of the central nervous system, say scientists.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disabling disease that destroys the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers, causing loss of signaling and nerve cell damage in the central nervous system (CNS).
Now, a recent study from the University of Chicago in Illinois has revealed how a small molecule that bears the name Sephin1 can delay myelin damage in a mouse model of MS.
The journal Brain has recently published an account of the findings.
The study reveals that Sephin1 works by prolonging an inbuilt, integrated stress response (ISR) that reduces the harm that inflammation causes to myelin-producing cells, or oligodendrocytes.
First study author Yanan Chen, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Neurology, says that Sephin1 appears to offer “therapeutic potential with no measurable adverse effects.”
A disease that damages the CNS
MS is a long-term disease that damages the CNS and whose symptoms vary from person to person.
The symptoms that develop in MS are unpredictable and largely depend on where the damage to the CNS — which comprises the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves — occurs. Flare-ups can come and go, or the symptoms can get worse over time.
People with MS typically experience numbness, exhaustion, disturbed vision, impaired coordination and balance, and speech difficulties. They can also struggle to remember and concentrate.
MS symptoms can progress to blindness, paralysis, and more.
While anyone at any age can develop MS, it most often strikes between the ages of 20 and 50 years, and women appear to be three times more susceptible to the disease than men.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there are at least 2.3 million people with MS worldwide. In the United States, estimates suggest that there could be nearly 1 million people living with MS.
Experts believe that MS is an autoimmune disease, that is one in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the same way as it attacks disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and other threats.
Autoimmune features of MS
The inflammatory attacks in MS destroy myelin, which is an insulating layer of fatty protein that covers nerve fibers. The ensuing damage disrupts the electrical signals that nerve cells carry around the CNS and between the CNS and the rest of the body.
The damage can extend to nerve fibers, nerve cells, and the oligodendrocytes that make the myelin.