AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 2, 2018

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Researchers Find Potential Path to Repair MS-Damaged Nerves

FINDINGS

Gene expression in specific cells and in specific regions can provide a more precise, neuroprotective approach than traditional treatments for neurological diseases. For multiple sclerosis, specifically, increasing cholesterol synthesis gene expression in astrocytes of the spinal cord can be a pathway to repair nerves that affect walking.

BACKGROUND

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune, neurodegenerative disease, characterized by distinct disabilities affecting walking, vision, and cognition, to name a few. MS patients differ markedly from each other regarding which disability affects them the most. Inflammation strips the myelin coating from nerve cell extensions, called axons, and connections at the ends of nerves, called synapses, are lost, together disrupting signaling and eventually causing permanent disability depending on where this occurs. UCLA researchers proposed that molecular mechanisms behind each disability may differ, and that neuroprotective treatments tailored for each disability may be more effective than nonspecific treatments aiming to reduce a composite of different disabilities. The team focused on astrocytes, a type of brain cell that becomes activated in MS and plays several important roles in disease, examining gene expression in astrocytes in different regions.

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