Preserving Myelin Sheath Cells Could Be a Way to Attack MS

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The study is changing the way experts think about treatment strategies.

“It means that prompting new oligodendrocytes is not a viable strategy,” Frisén said. “Instead, we need to keep them alive and functioning and trigger them to repair.”

“This is a very provocative paper,” Claude Schofield, PhD, director of discovery research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, told Healthline. “If it turns out to be true, it’s a pretty important finding.”

“This will have a massive impact on how we view our approach to treating MS,” Schofield added. “More research is needed. But measuring the age of cells is not available. If we could develop chemical markers (other than nuclear isotopes) that could date cells, it is possible to recreate and do the research needed.”

“This study was done postmortem with donated tissue. If we could develop markers to use with imaging techniques, we could better understand the pathology of individual MS and lead to better treatments,” Schofield said.

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Not all oligodendrocyte cells are the same.

Some cells may create longer myelin sheaths or have other unique features.

These subgroups of cells were identified in a second paper recently published in the journal Nature.

The findings may be important to understanding disease progression and developing therapeutic approaches.

“This is huge for MS,” Schofield said of the second study. “It will revolutionize the way we look at MS.”

Schofield explains how, up until this study, we could only identify a cell by its shape and other features. But with this new methodology, we’re able to see a fingerprint of the cell and know everything about it. He likened it to the difference between a rotary phone and today’s smartphones.

“Now we can find differences that we would never detect before,” he said. “In terms of understanding disease, this is the future, the most important thing going on in biology right now.”

Caroline Craven is a patient expert living with MS. Her award-winning blog is GirlwithMS.com, and she can be found on Twitter.