Vittorio Gallo, PhD, Director of the Center for Neuroscience Research at Children's National Health System, and other researchers have found a "potentially novel therapeutic target" to reduce the rate of deterioration and to promote growth of brain cells damaged by multiple sclerosis (MS).
The brain produces new cells to repair the damage from MS years after symptoms appear. However, in most cases the cells are unable to complete the repair, as unknown factors limit this process.
In MS patients, brain inflammation in random patches, or lesions, leads to destruction of myelin, the fatty covering that insulates nerve cell fibers called axons in the brain, and aids in transmission of signals to other neurons.
Gallo reported identifying a small protein that can be targeted to promote repair of damaged tissue, with therapeutic potential. The molecule, Endothelin-1 (ET-1), is shown to inhibit repair of myelin.
The study demonstrates that blocking ET-1 pharmacologically or using a genetic approach could promote myelin repair.
"We demonstrate that ET-1 drastically reduces the rate of remyelination," Gallo said. As such, ET-1 is "potentially a therapeutic target to promote lesion repair in deymyelinated tissue." It could play a "crucial role in preventing normal myelination in MS and in other demyelinating diseases," the researcher added.
The study was published in the journal Neuron.