Targeting this protein may help treat multiple sclerosis

ANI | Updated: Nov 03, 2017 09:29 IST

Targeting this protein may help treat multiple sclerosis .

Washington D C [USA], Nov 3 (ANI): A new study has found that a blood-clotting protein prevents repair in the brain .

Picture a bare wire, without its regular plastic coating . It's exposed to the elements and risks being degraded . And, without insulation, it may not conduct electricity as well as a coated wire . Now, imagine this wire is inside your brain .

That's what happens in many diseases of the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injuries, stroke, neonatal brain injuries, and even Alzheimer's disease .

Much like that bare wire, the nerve fibers in the brain lose their protective coating, called myelin, and become extremely vulnerable . This leaves the nerve cells exposed to their environment and reduces their ability to transmit signals quickly, resulting in impaired cognition, sensation, and movement .

In disease, the brain seems to activate mechanisms to repair myelin, but cannot complete the process . For years, scientists have been trying to understand why these repair mechanisms are halted, as overcoming this obstacle holds great potential for treating disabling neurological diseases .

Katerina Akassoglou and her research team at the Gladstone Institutes uncovered a promising new therapeutic strategy . Surprisingly, it's associated with a protein in the blood .

They found that when fibrinogen (a blood-clotting protein) leaks into the central nervous system, it stops brain cells from producing myelin and, as a result, prevents repair .

The cells needed to repair myelin already exist in the central nervous system . They are adult stem cells that travel to sites of damage, where they mature into myelin-producing cells . However, in many neurological diseases, this process is blocked . This is why the brain is unable to repair damaged myelin .

"We found that fibrinogen stops adult stem cells from transforming into the mature cells that produce myelin," explained first author Mark Petersen . "This blockade could be harmful for regeneration in the brain ."

Researchers can now look for new ways to target fibrinogen as a way to restore regenerative functions in the central nervous system . This could lead to novel therapies to help patients with MS and many other diseases associated with myelin .

The study appears in the journal Neuron . (ANI)