Study Identifies Protein to Repair Damaged Brain Tissue in MS
WASHINGTON (Feb. 6, 2014) — Vittorio Gallo, Ph.D., director of the Center for Neuroscience Research at Children’s National Health System, and other researchers have found a “potentially novel therapeutic target” to reduce the rate of deterioration and to promote growth of brain cells damaged by multiple sclerosis (MS). Current MS therapies can be effective in patients with relapsing MS, but have little impact in promoting tissue growth.
The brain produces new cells to repair the damage from MS for years after symptoms of the disorder appear. However, in most cases the cells are unable to complete the repair, as unknown factors limit this process. In patients with MS, brain inflammation in random patches, or lesions, leads to destruction of myelin, the fatty covering that insulates nerve cell fibers called axons in the brain, and aids in transmission of signals to other neurons.
In yesterday’s publication of Neuron, Gallo, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), reported identifying a small protein that can be targeted to promote repair of damaged tissue, with therapeutic potential. The molecule, Endothelin-1 (ET-1), is shown to inhibit repair of myelin. Myelin damage is a hallmark of MS. The study demonstrates that blocking ET-1 pharmacologically or using a genetic approach could promote myelin repair.
Repair of damaged MS plaques is carried out by endogenous oliogdendrocytle progenitor cells (OPCs) in a process called remyelination. Current MS therapy can be effective in patients with relapsing and remitting MS, but “have little impact in promoting remyelination in tissue”, Gallo said. Several studies have shown that OPCs fail to differentiate in chronic MS lesions.
Targeting ET-1 is a process that involves identifying signals in cells that could promote lesion repair. “We demonstrate that ET-1 drastically reduces the rate of remyelination,” Gallo said. As such ET-1 is “potentially a therapeutic target to promote lesion repair in deymyelinated tissue.” It could play a “crucial role in preventing normal myelinatioin in MS and in other demyelinating diseases,” Gallo said.
Timothy Hammond, Ph.D. candidate at SMHS, and Ana Gadea, both at the Center for Neuroscience Research at Children’s National Health System, contributed to this research.
About Children’s National Health System:
Children’s National Health System, based in Washington, DC, has been serving the nation’s children since 1870. Children’s National’s hospital is Magnet® designated, and is consistently ranked among the top pediatric hospitals by U.S.News & World Report. Home to the Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children’s National is one of the nation’s top NIH-funded pediatric institutions. With a community-based pediatric network, eight regional outpatient centers, an ambulatory surgery center, two emergency rooms, an acute care hospital, and collaborations throughout the region, Children’s National is recognized for its expertise and innovation.
About the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences:
Founded in 1825, the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was the first medical school in the nation’s capital and is the 11th oldest in the country. Working together in our nation’s capital, with integrity and resolve, the GW SMHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of our local, national and global communities. smhs.gwu.edu