Portland, Ore. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have discovered a naturally occurring disease in monkeys that is very much like multiple sclerosis in humans a discovery that could have a major impact on efforts to understand the cause of multiple sclerosis.
The disease that the researchers discovered in monkeys at OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center is associated with a herpes virus that could give significant clues into how multiple sclerosis develops in humans. MS researchers have long believed that a type of herpes virus may trigger multiple sclerosis in people who are genetically susceptible to the disease.
The OHSU researchers' findings were published online today in the Annals of Neurology.
"These findings could have a huge impact on our understanding of MS and could be a landmark in someday developing more effective treatments for the disease, or even methods to prevent the onset of MS," said Scott Wong, Ph.D., senior author of the study and a scientist at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and the Oregon National Primate Research Center.
Both elements of the OHSU discovery are important for MS researchers.
Before the OHSU findings, researchers had been able to study MS-like diseases in nonhuman primates only after the disease had been artificially induced. A naturally occurring disease, such as the one discovered at OHSU, can give researchers many more clues into the causes and development of the disease.
"Now, we may be able to tease apart what's triggering the onset of the disease," Wong said.
And the fact that the disease, found in a small percentage of the Japanese macaques at OHSU each year, came from a herpes virus could prove hugely important to MS researchers worldwide.
Researchers can now search for a similar virus in MS patients.
The cause of MS, which affects about 400,000 people in the United States, is unknown. But research
|Contact: Todd Murphy|
Oregon Health & Science University