Immune system shown to repair myelin

The immune system could play a role in myelin repair, according to new research.

This study has shown for the first time that one type of immune cell can help repair myelin in mice. These are a different type of immune cell to the ones that cause damage in MS.

A protein made by these cells boosts the number of myelin-making cells and encourages them to produce new myelin. In MS the immune system damages the protective myelin coating around nerve cells. To protect nerves from damage, we need to encourage myelin-making cells called oligodendrocytes to repair myelin.

Team work

Researchers from around the world carried out the study, including scientists from our dedicated research centres in Cambridge and Edinburgh.

Senior author Dr Fitzgerald said: “This pioneering research, led by our team at Queen’s, is an exciting collaboration of top scientists from different disciplines at Cambridge, San Francisco, Edinburgh and Nice. “It is by bringing together these experts from immunology, neuroscience and stem cell biology that we have been able to make this landmark discovery.”

Hope for new treatments

Dr Sorrel Bickley, our Head of Biomedical Research, said: “This exciting study gives us an important understanding of how myelin repair can be promoted, which could open up new areas for treatment development.

“We welcome this international collaboration led by Northern Ireland, where rates of MS are amongst the highest in the world.”