A team of Canadian, American and Australian scientists have found that blocking a protein that causes acute nerve damage could be key in preventing the development of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Some of MS symptoms are blurred vision, eye ache, blindness, partial or mild paralysis, jerking and twitching muscles, tingling, buzzing and vibration sensations, male and female impotence, irregular bowel movements, swallowing problems, etc.
MS is estimated to affect up to 2.5 million people worldwide. The disease tends to strike early in adulthood, with women three times more likely than men to be diagnosed for it, the journal Brain reported.
Scientists from the Monash University's Immunology and Stem Cell Lab (MISCL), Universities of Toronto, Yale and Western Australia, have demonstrated the key role played by the collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP-2) in the development of MS.
Led by reserachers Steven Petratos from MISCL and Claude Bernard, the research team found that a modified version of CRMP-2 is present in active MS lesions, which indicate damage to the nervous system, in a lab model of MS, said a university statement.
The modified CRMP-2 interacts with another protein to cause nerve fibre damage that can result in numbness, blindness, difficulties with speech and motor skills, and cognitive impairments in sufferers.
When either the modified CRMP-2 or the interaction between the two proteins was blocked, the progression of the disease was halted.
Richard Boyd, director MISCL, said the discovery could lead to new treatments for MS, "Blocking the same protein in people with MS could provide a 'handbrake' to the progression of the disease."
Petratos said the method used to block the protein was approved for the treatment of other disease conditions by both the US Food and Drug Administration and Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration.
"This should mean that clinical trials - once they start - will be fast tracked as the form of administration has already been approved," Petratos said.