In the past 30 years, there has been a considerable advancement in MS treatment. In 1996, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listed the first disease-modifying medication (DMT). There are now 14 listed on the PBS.
Although there are numerous therapy options available to Australians, these are mostly intended for those who have relapsing-remitting MS and target the immune system to halt the progression of the illness.
Instead of the immune system targeting the protective, fatty coating around nerve fibres known as the myelin sheath, progressive MS is thought to be caused by persistent damage to nerve fibres. It is thought that with progressive MS, the loss of nerve fibres causes persistent and escalating impairment.
Dr. Steven Petratos of Monash University and his group have been researching the molecular chain of events that leads to MS-related nerve fibre destruction.
Dr. Petratos and his team have looked into whether administering the same therapeutic protein to MS lab models might aid in myelin and nerve fibre repair after injury.
In laboratory MS models, Dr. Petratos and his team were able to show that the therapeutic protein could be successfully delivered by blood immune cells to damaged parts of the brain and spinal cord at the worst stage of the symptoms. These laboratory models actually showed total remission of MS symptoms.
A specific subset of immune cells involved in clearing myelin debris was present in greater amounts in the MS laboratory mice that received the therapeutic protein. When myelin is injured, myelin debris forms, and its efficient clearance is required to encourage the regeneration of nerve fibres and remyelination.
The researchers also discovered that clinically recovered laboratory models had lower amounts of degenerating nerve fibres and higher levels of tiny nerve fibres, suggesting nerve regeneration.
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