Myelin Research Spinal Cord MS Multiple Sclerosis

Study Shows Promise In Repairing Damaged Myelin

A scientific breakthrough provides new hope for millions of people living with multiple sclerosis. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have developed a compound that stimulates repair of the protective sheath that covers nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

“A scientific breakthrough provides new hope for millions of people living with multiple sclerosis. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have developed a compound that stimulates repair of the protective sheath that covers nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.”

The discovery, involving mice genetically engineered to mimic multiple sclerosis, published in the journal JCI Insight.


MS is a chronic condition that affects an estimated 2.3 million people worldwide. In MS, the sheath covering nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord becomes damaged, slowing or blocking electrical signals from reaching the eyes, muscles and other parts of the body. This sheath is called myelin. Although myelin can regrow through exposure to thyroid hormones, researchers have not pursued thyroid hormone therapies due to unacceptable side effects.


Although several treatments and medications alleviate the symptoms of MS, there is no cure.


"There are no drugs available today that will re-myelinate the de-myelinated axons and nerve fibers, and ours does that," said senior author Tom Scanlan, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology in the OHSU School of Medicine.


Co-author Dennis Bourdette, M.D., chair of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine and director of the OHSU Multiple Sclerosis Center, said he expects it will be a few years before the compound advances to the stage of a clinical trial involving people. Yet the study provides fresh hope for patients in Oregon and beyond.


"It could have a significant impact on patients debilitated by MS," Bourdette said.

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