Study suggests compound protects myelin, nerve fibers

January 20, 2021
A compound appears to protect nerve fibers and the fatty sheath, called myelin, that covers nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The discovery could be important in treating or preventing the progression of multiple sclerosis. 

The new research advances earlier work to develop the compound – known as sobetirome – that has already showed promise in stimulating the repair of myelin. Researchers previously developed sobetirome as a compound that mimics the effect of the thyroid hormone in stimulating the maturation of precursor cells known as oligodendrocytes, which generate myelin. Oregon Health and Science University scientists developed a strategy to greatly increase the delivery of sobetirome into the brain of mice – remyelinating nerve fiber sheaths after damage had occurred.

In the new research, scientists tested the compound by inducing an autoimmune disease in a mouse model of MS, causing inflammation damage to myelin and nerve fibers. The researchers discovered they were able to prevent damage to myelin and nerve fibers from occurring by stimulating a protective response in the cells that make and maintain myelin. They also reduced the activity of migroglia, a type of inflammatory cell in the brain and spinal cord that’s involved in causing damage in MS.

Results of mouse model studies sometimes do not translate to humans and may be years away from being a marketable treatment. However, researchers said the discovery, if proven in clinical trials involving people, could be especially useful for people who are diagnosed with MS early in the disease’s progression.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology.

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