Finding new ways to protect oligodendrocytes

About the project

When myelin, the fatty protective layer that surrounds nerve fibres, is attacked by the immune system in MS the nerve can become exposed. This leaves it vulnerable to damage which is the main contributor to disability in MS. It is not known exactly how this damage accumulates but we do know that myelin making cells called oligodendrocytes are injured in MS. Injured oligodendrocytes are unable to make myelin as efficiently resulting in less myelin repair.

This project will investigate a particular structure called the myelinic channel and the role it may play in oligodendrocyte injury. Firstly, the researchers plan to look at the normal function of the myelinic channel, to understand more about it. Then they will mimic the immune response in MS and see how the myelinic channel is affected. If this channel appears to be damaged under MS conditions this may help to explain why oligodendrocytes become injured.

Treatments to prevent damage to the myelinic channel may help protect the oligodendrocytes. This might enable them to replace damaged myelin and prevent damage to the nerve.

The researchers will also be continuing to monitor and assess people who have been or are currently being treated with alemtuzumab so that this data can continue to be added to the growing bank of evidence.

How will it help people with MS?

There are currently few treatments available for progressive MS, largely because we don’t understand what causes it. This project will enable researchers to gain a better understanding of the steps leading to nerves being exposed. This knowledge could contribute to the development of interventions to minimise nerve damage which leads to disability in MS.

The difference you can make

It is vital that we understand the processes that result in nerve damage in order to develop treatments for people with progressive MS.