MS researchers recognize that myelin repair following a relapse or ‘attack’ is the key to preventing disease progression and irreversible disability. With many people living with progressive MS, and many others facing the real possibility of secondary progression, the need for understanding the mechanisms of myelin repair and stimulating these processes becomes critically important.
Over the last year, three published studies supported by the MS Society of Canada brought us closer to knowing if, how, and when repair takes place in MS. Dr. Jack Antel from McGill University demonstrated that oligodendrocyte precursor cells are a likely source of new, healthy myelin in MS following an attack. His research also showed that the precursor cells are prone to harm in the MS lesion environment which could account for the limited myelin repair observed in certain individuals with MS. Another repair study led by MS Society postdoctoral fellowship recipient Dr. Veronique Miron showed that certain immune cells can trigger myelin repair. One such example is the macrophage; this cell can exhibit anti-inflammatory properties and releases a compound called activin-A which activates production of myelin. The last study comes from Dr. Rashmi Kothary’s lab in Ottawa. This group identified a number of key molecules which aid in the development of oligodendrocytes, which are the cells that wrap around nerves and generate the myelin sheathe. Overall this body of research provides fundamental knowledge on myelin repair, and paves the way for the development treatments aimed at promoting the repair process to enable the central nervous system to recover function and reduce the risk of entry into progressive MS.
Check out the MS Society Research Summaries to learn more about the research we fund in repair.