Restoring myelin, restoring nerve function

LadyofHats [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Loss of myelin underlies several disorders of the central nervous system (CNS) in humans, the most well known of which may be multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis affects roughly 2.5 million people worldwide and can cause a range of symptoms including fatigue, loss of coordination and balance, numbness, blurred vision or blindness and even paralysis. It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own healthy tissue, destroying the myelin that surrounds nerve fibers of the CNS and interfering with transmission of nerve signals. There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, although various treatments are available to help manage its symptoms and progression. Restoration of damaged myelin is thought to help protect nerve fibers from further degeneration and to restore signal transmission but, until now, had not been shown to result in functional recovery. New research from Ian Duncan (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and colleagues now suggests that remyelination can indeed restore function in cats suffering from neurological demyelination.

Lab Anim. (NY) 38, 138 (2009).
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