A molecular switch has the ability to turn on a substance in animals that repairs neurological damage in disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Mayo Clinic researchers discovered. The early research in animal models could advance an already approved Food and Drug Administration therapy and also could lead to new strategies for treating diseases of the central nervous system.
Research by Isobel Scarisbrick, Ph.D., published in the Journal of Neuroscience finds that by genetically switching off a receptor activated by blood proteins, named Protease Activated Receptor 1 (PAR1), the body switches on regeneration of myelin, a fatty substance that coats and protects nerves.
Myelin regeneration holds tremendous potential to improve function. We showed when we block the PAR1 receptor, neurological healing is much better and happens more quickly. In many cases, the nervous system does have a good capacity for innate repair. This sets the stage for development of new clinically relevant myelin regeneration strategies." Dr. Isobel Scarisbrick, principal investigator and senior author Myelin, thrombin and the nervous system
Myelin acts like a wire insulator that protects electrical signals sent through the nervous system. Demyelination, or injury to the myelin, slows electrical signals between brain cells, resulting in loss of sensory and motor function. Sometimes the damage is permanent. Demyelination is found in disorders such as MS, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, schizophrenia and spinal cord injury.
Thrombin is a protein in blood that aids in healing. However, too much thrombin triggers the PAR1 receptor found on the surface of cells, and this blocks myelin production. Oligodendrocyte progenitor cells capable of myelin regeneration are often found at sites of myelin injury, including demyelinating injuries in multiple sclerosis. Related Stories
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