Scientists discovered a new potential pathway to repair the damaged nerves that affect the walking of those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). They found that augmenting the cholesterol synthesis gene expression in astrocytes of the spinal cord of the patients could repair the damaged nerves, resulting in walking recovery.
The discovery was described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was led by researchers from University of California (UCLA), according to Medical Xpress.
Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative and long-lasting disease that could affect the spinal cord, brain, and optic nerves. This disease causes damaged nerves that occur when the immune system attacks the myelin, which is a fatty material that wraps around the nerve fibers to protect them. Without this protection, the nerves will be damaged.
Meanwhile, the damaged nerves could trigger dysfunction, in which the brain could not send signals in the body properly. This may lead to symptoms such as trouble walking, muscle weakness or spasms, feeling tired, blurred or double vision, numbness and tingling, poor bladder or bowel control, pain, depression, problems focusing or remembering, and sexual problems, according to WebMD.
In the new study that involved a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS), the scientists investigated the astrocytes, which is a type of brain cell that becomes activated in MS. They examined and compared the gene expression changes in astrocytes in different parts of the brain and the spinal cord.
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The team found that in the spinal cord, a body part essential for walking, there was a decrease in the expression of cholesterol synthesis genes.
This type of cholesterol is made in astrocytes and has a significant role in making the myelin, the nerve coating, nerve connections, and the synapses. The team discovered that the decrease in cholesterol synthesis gene expression in astrocytes caused the irreparable lesions in MS, according to Medical Xpress.
So, the scientists treated the MS-afflicted mice a drug that increased the cholesterol synthesis gene expression in astrocytes. The results showed an improved walking ability in MS mice. This discovery of the potential pathway in repairing the multiple-sclerosis-damaged nerves could also lead to neuroprotective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.