Study: Oligodendrocyte cells surprise contributor to MS

October 09, 2019
Cells that scientists have largely ignored when studying multiple sclerosis are actually key contributors to MS development, new research shows. The discovery suggests new avenues for devising treatments and is a vital step toward finding a cure.

Scientists had assumed oligodendrocyte progenitor cells could only serve a favorable role in MS. These glial cells make up about 5 percent of the brain and spinal cord, and play an important and beneficial role by making cells that produce myelin – insulation for nerve cells.

It has been thought that these progenitors do not efficiently give rise to myelin-producing cells in people with MS. Yet, researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine discovered these progenitors are also actively participating in the immune system's harmful attacks on myelin.

The good news: The new insights into the progenitor cells suggest that doctors could potentially manipulate the environment inside the brain to avoid neurodegeneration and promote brain repair. In the lab, blocking the effects of the cells reduced inflammation and aided in myelin restoration.

The findings were published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica.

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