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Sunday, September 15, 2013
Research Could Lead to Faster Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
September 12th, 2013by Richard Lenti
The cure for multiple sclerosis (MS) continues to be elusive — and scientists believe part of the reason progress has been so slow may be due to where they’ve been looking.
Researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School say it now appears that much of the investigation into the chronic disease has focused on the wrong part of the brain.
Until now, most MS research has focused on the brain’s white matter, which contains the nerve fibers. The disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks a fatty substance called myelin, which coats nerves contained in the white matter. When the nerves are exposed, transmission of nerve impulses can be slowed or interrupted.
But a new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE,found that the brain’s gray matter, which contains the axons, dendrites and synapses that transfer signals between nerves, is far more affected by the disease than previously suspected.
It’s a finding that scientists say could give physicians more effective tools in the treatment of MS.
By taking advantage of a combination of new technologies called proteomics and high-resolution mass spectrometry, Dr. Steven Schutzer and his team were able to analyze patients’ cerebrospinal fluid (CSF); something until recently, they couldn’t do.
“Proteins present in the clear liquid that bathes the central nervous system can be a window to physical changes that accompany neurological disease,” said Schutzer, “and the latest mass spectrometry techniques allow us to see them as never before.”
In his study, Schutzer used that technology to compare the cerebrospinal fluid of newly diagnosed MS patients with that of longer term MS patients, as well as fluid taken from people with no signs of neurological disease.
The proteins in the CSF of the new MS patients suggested physiological disruptions not only in the white matter of the brain, where the myelin damage appears, but also pointed to substantial disruptions in the gray matter. Nine specific proteins associated with gray matter were far more abundant in patients who had just suffered their first attack than in longer term MS patients.
Scientists had hypothesized that there might be gray matter involvement in early MS, but until now, the technology needed to test their theories did not exist.