This article focuses on new information that has been discovered relating to the central nervous system. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) discovered that by blocking a certain enzyme in the brain, brain damage associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) and a range of other neurological disorders could be treated. The discovery could have major effects on MS and other disorders caused by demyelination, a process where there is damaged insulin-like sheaths surrounding nerve cells in the brain. Communications of nerve cells is disrupted when demyelination occurs. This leads to sensory, motor, and cognitive problems seen in MS patients.
Larry Sherman, Ph.D., is the leader of the researchers of the study at OHSU. In 2005, he and his team of researchers discovered that hyaluronic acid, a sugar molecule, builds up in areas of damage in the brains of humans and animals with demyelinating lesions in the brain and spinal cord. At that time, their findings showed that the hyaluronic acid itself prevented remyelination by preventing cells that form myelin from differentiating in areas of brain damage.
The new study shows that the hyaluronic acid itself does not prevent the differentiation. The recent study shows that the breakdown products of a certain enzyme that chews up hyaluronic acid, called a hyaluronidase, contribute to remyelination failure. The study was conducted on animals with a MS-like disease. The researchers found that by blocking hyaluronidase activity, they could promote remyelination and myelin-forming cell differentiation in the animals with the MS-like disease. The drug that blocked hyaluronidase activity led to improved nerve cell function.
The next step is to develop drugs that will target this enzyme with a few, if any, side effects. Researchers want to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the drugs they develop. If they find drugs that are effective in monkeys, they plan to test such drugs on human patients.
I think that this advancement in medicine is leading the nation towards the right direction in developing different cures for different disorders. And for other diseases.