For those of us with multiple sclerosis, there are two cures that we’re waiting for. The first is a treatment option that will halt the progression of our disease, so that we will not become more disabled. The second is a treatment option that will reverse the damage already done by the disease, so we can regain ability that has been previously lost.
This week, we’re one step closer to the second treatment, with research being done on human tissue (not just on mice).
According to research published in Nature Neuroscience, Dr. Yvonne Dombrowski and Dr. Denise Fitzgerald of the Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom’s Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine and colleagues discovered that a subtype of T cells called “regulatory T cells” have a pivotal role in promoting myelin regrowth.
The process of myelin regrowth requires oligodendrocyte progenitor cells to mature into oligodendrocyte cells. Regulatory T cells release a protein that stimulates the differentiation of the progenitor cells into mature oligodendrocytes.
Using cultured human brain tissue, the researchers were able to show that regulatory T cells “accelerated developmental myelination and remyelination, even in the absence of overt inflammation.”
This means that our regulatory T cells have a regenerative function that is separate from their role in regulating the immune response.
It also may explain why Gilenya (fingolimod) has been so helpful to the many MS patients who are on it, since Gilenya increases CD39-expressing regulatory T cells in multiple sclerosis patients.
This discovery may enable researchers to develop medicines for us that increase the effectiveness and number of these particular T cells, thereby decreasing the likelihood of permanent disability caused by multiple sclerosis.
The senior author describes the findings as “an important step forward in understanding how the brain and spinal cord is naturally repaired.”
I, for one, am hopeful.
Are you hopeful?
Rachael Shapiro Majka is a writer, health advocate, and stay-at-home mom who loves to cook, make music, and foster kittens. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music and a juris doctor from Southwestern Law School. Diagnosed with MS in May of 2007 (which caused her to develop seizure disorder), she chronicles her quest to live the best life possible on the blog In It For The Parking and keeps up a popular Pinterest board of paleo recipes called the Paleo Compendium. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
You may also enjoy reading other articles by Rachael: 5 Ways To Make Your Home MS Friendly, Having The Best Sex Possible With Multiple Sclerosis and Cinnamon Helps To Suppress Symptoms.