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Basis for Nerve fiber Damage in Multiple Sclerosis Discovered

antly, these are the first antibodies to be identified with axon activity, which is a new area researchers are exploring in the pathology of MS." MS is a chronic central nervous system disease that can cause blurred vision, poor coordination, slurred speech, numbness, acute fatigue and, in its most extreme form, blindness and paralysis. Some 400,000 Americans have this disease. Its causes are unknown, and symptoms are unpredictable and vary greatly in severity. Much MS research is focused on an autoimmune process in which T-cells attack and damage myelin, the fatty insulating tissue of axons. These T-cells do not attack axons themselves; the process of demyelination interrupts electrical impulses that run through these nerve fibers, thus causing MS symptoms. Demyelination has been considered the central feature of MS.

Recently, however, Qin has been among a group of researchers who have discovered that B-cells too are involved with the autoimmune response to MS. Instead of targeting myelin, these B-cells attack axons directly. Axons are the long, slender fibers of a neuron that serve as the primary transmission lines of the nervous system, and as bundles they help make up nerves.

Research at UCI and elsewhere has shown that myelin grows back if the T-cell autoimmune response is turned off, and drugs exist or are in development to block demyelination. Axons, in turn, repair very slowly, which implies that B-cell attacks on axons may have a significant impact on the chronic central nervous system damage caused by MS. "Since this area of research is in its early stage, it’s important to understand the process by which these B-cell responses happen," Qin said. "Hopefully, by identifying these two crucial enzymes, it will lead to a greater understanding of MS and lead to more effective treatments for people who live with this disease."

Johanna Kolln, Hui-Min Ren, Reng-Rong Da, Yiping Zhang, Dr. Michael Olek, Dr. Neal Hermanowicz, Lutz
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