Currently, no multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments promote remyelination. Richard Kraig, M.D., Ph.D., Professor in Neurosciences and Director of the Migraine Headache Clinic at the University of Chicago Medicine, described to the press on Sunday, May 10, at the Society for Neuroscience 2013 meeting in San Diego, his group’s new work showing that dendritic cells, a type of immune cell present in blood, can be cultured from bone marrow and stimulated to release small particles called exosomes (see image). When administered to the brain, these exosomes significantly increase myelination and improve remyelination following a demyelinating injury, like that caused by MS. MS is an inflammatory disease involving oligodendrocyte loss, demyelination, and failure to remyelinate damaged brain areas. Oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system produce myelin, the insulation surrounding axons, which is necessary for neuronal signaling. Damage to oligodendrocytes and demyelination — loss of this insulation — can lead to severe neurological disability. Remyelination is a spontaneously occurring repair process mediated by recruitment of oligodendrocyte precursor cells to damaged areas. Their subsequent differentiation into mature oligodendrocytes is capable of replacing lost myelin. Initially, MS patients follow a relapsing-remitting disease course, characterized by periods of partial recovery associated with incomplete remyelination. However, over time this ability to repair declines and patients develop a secondary-progressive, steadily worsening disease course. With over 400,000 people currently suffering from MS in the United States, it is a significant and devastating healthcare burden.
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