Preserving Myelin Sheath Cells Could Be a Way to Attack MS

Researchers say repairing myelin might be a way to repair damage from MS disease progression. Getty Images

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Scientists have discovered crucial data suggesting that myelin repair in people with multiple sclerosis may be possible as long as certain cells still survive.

These cells, called oligodendrocytes, are acquired since birth and make up the myelin sheaths around the nerves that are destroyed by the disease.

The destruction of the sheaths causes symptoms associated with MS. Repairing myelin may be the only way to repair damage from the disease’s progression.

“People with MS do not generate cells needed for re-myelination. Instead their bodies depend upon cells given at birth,” Dr. Jonas Frisén, the lead study author and a professor of stem cell research at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, told Healthline. “We need to save these cells.”

To obtain their data, study authors relied upon nuclear bomb tests that were conducted in the United States, Soviet Union, and other countries in the 1950s and 1960s.

The residue of the bomb tests released radioactive carbon into the atmosphere that spread around the globe.

The residue left a lasting mark on human cells. This marker was used, postmortem, to determine the age of cells.

“The results were a big surprise,” Frisén said. “This is technically difficult to approach in humans. There is no other source of a marker in the environment that is integrated in DNA and can be used for the analysis of cell generation. This is the first human study.”

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