Myelin sheaths are fatty protective covering on nerve cells. They insulate and support axons, the fibers that transmit signals between nerve cells. In multiple sclerosis, immune attack destroys these myelin sheaths. Due to damage of this protective coating, the axons gradually wither away, causing the numbness and muscle spasms that are characteristic of the disease. An experimental antibody drug, called anti-LINGO-1, is aimed at protecting nerves from multiple sclerosis and offers hope for a new way to combat the neurological disease. The antibody drug blocks the LINGO-1 protein which inhibits the production of myelin. In doing so, the drug stimulates the regrowth of the myelin sheath.
Bruce Trapp, neuroscientist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said, "The 12 drugs approved in the US to treat multiple sclerosis slow this immune attack, although sometimes with dangerous side-effects, but none stops it." The anti-LINGO-1 is being developed by the global biotechnology company Biogen based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If the initial promising results from the trial are confirmed, it will be the first such myelin-regeneration therapy.
Jack Antel, neurologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said, "Once we get a positive result, the field will move very quickly. It has consistently performed well in animal models and in human cells grown in culture."