Making Sense of MS

Researchers say multiple sclerosis will become controlled disease, cholesterol link unlikely

(RxWiki News) In contrast to a previous study, compounds called oxysterols are not present in any significant amount in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.

MS is a progressive autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). MS episodes are caused by the body's immune system attacking the protective lining around nerves known as the myelin sheath. Researchers have identified about 20 genes associated with susceptibility of developing the disease.

A previous study linked two cholesterol metabolites with MS and indicated they could be used as a diagnostic tool. MS is infamously challenging to diagnose. Two oxysterols, known as 15HC and 15KC, were elevated more than three times in the blood of MS patients, indicating these oxysterols could be associated with the development of the disease, according to the study.

Based on these findings, Ingemar Björkhem and colleagues at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet decided to do thier own study and perform their own analysis of blood samples but failed to find any meaningful 15HC or 15KC oxysterol levels in the blood of either healthy individuals or MS patients despite numerous efforts.

There is some debate over oxysterols in science. Oxysterols are present in only trace amounts in the blood, and so far studies in living animals and humans have not proven conclusive as to their merit.

William Griffiths and Yuqin Wang of the U.K.'s Swansea University, who were not involved in either study, suggest the compounds in the previous study may have been misidentified, "in which case their data would suggest that some unidentified lipids are increased in the circulation of patients with (MS)."

In other MS news, neuroinflammation and the causes of neuronal demyelination (this happens when the protective sheath that covers nerve cells is destroyed by the body's immune system) are two processes gaining traction in research. Drugs successful in the fight against neuroinflammation have many scientists hopeful that when MS is diagnosed at an early stage it will become a controlled disease, as has been achieved with AIDS. The missing piece of this puzzle remains strategies adept at regenerating tissue damaged or destroyed by the disease, however.

As for improving MS treatments, cell therapies have been successful in diseases of the blood and cancer, and experimental results have allowed for regenerative stem cells treatments for MS.

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Review Date: 
December 17, 2010