Study: Brain discovery may help boost body’s ability to fight MS

October 19, 2022
Researchers may have discovered a molecule in the brain responsible for orchestrating the immune system’s responses to multiple sclerosis. The findings may point to a treatment avenue that could alter the behavior of these native brain cells to behave in a more neuroprotective way.

The molecule the researchers identified, called a kinase, is crucial to preventing the debris buildup that causes MS. It does this by directing the activity of brain cleaners called microglia. University of Virginia Health System’s researchers said the new findings could one day let doctors augment the activity of microglia to treat or protect patients from MS.

Recent advances in neuroscience research have shed light on the importance of microglia in removing harmful debris from the brain, but UVA’s new discovery offers practical insights into how this cleaning process occurs. UVA researchers found that a lack of the molecule they identified, spleen tyrosine kinase, in a mouse model of MS led to the buildup of damaged myelin, a protective coating on nerve cells. The UVA researchers conclude that the molecule, abbreviated as SYK, is “critically involved” in the crucial removal of myelin debris.

Results of mouse model studies sometimes do not translate to humans and may be years away from being a marketable treatment. However, the study’s authors said that if boosting SYK activity in microglia can decrease the amount of myelin debris in MS lesions, developing new drugs to target SYK could stop the progression of MS and help to reverse the damage. 

The findings were published in the scientific journal Cell.

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