Finding could lead to new MS treatments

March 12, 2018
A surprise finding by medical scientists may lead to the development of a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis. Researchers identified the overabundance of a specific protein in the brain of people who have MS. The next step, they said, is to figure out the protein's role and possibly develop therapies.

While examining human brain tissues, researchers from the University of Alberta and McGill University found that the tissues from people who had MS contained an extremely high level of a protein named calnexin, compared with those who hadn't had MS. The researchers then tested the susceptibility of mice lacking calnexin to the mouse model of MS. They found that the mice lacking the protein were completely resistant to the disease.

The researchers suggest calnexin is somehow involved in controlling the function of the blood-brain barrier and acts like a wall restricting the passage of cells and substances from the blood into the brain. When there is too much calnexin, this wall gives T cells access to the brain, where they destroy myelin.

Results of mouse model studies sometimes do not translate to humans and may be years away from being a marketable treatment. However, the researchers argue the finding identifies calnexin as an important target for developing therapies for MS. The challenge, they said, is to tease out exactly how this protein works in the cells involved in making up the blood-brain barrier. Knowledge of the part calnexin plays in this process could lead to a way of manipulating its function for the promotion of resistance for developing MS.

The study was published in JCI Insight.

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