Medical researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have discovered a potential new drug target for multiple sclerosis (MS) that could prevent physical disability associated with the disease, once a new drug is developed. In the first phase of MS, those with the condition have significant inflammation of their brain cells, resulting in continuous cycles of inflammation attacks followed by recovery periods. In the second phase of the disease, the inflammation isn't as severe, but this is the stage where physical disability sets in due to the effects from substantial numbers of brain cells having been killed in the first phase of the disease. When immune cells become active due to inflammation, they can pass through the blood-brain barrier and enter the central nervous system. Some of these activated immune cells secrete a molecule, known as granzyme B, that can get inside neurons and wreak havoc – ultimately causing brain cell death. Granzyme B is found in MS brain lesions – especially in the early stages of inflammation. This molecule can get into brain cells through a "gatekeeper," known as receptor M6PR. Researchers with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta discovered in lab experiments that if they prevent this granzyme B from entering neurons, "we can also prevent the killing of neurons," says principal investigator Dr. Fabrizio Giuliani, whose team’s work was published online on September 30, 2011 in The Journal of Immunology. "It is this loss of brain cells, in the long-term, which induces disability in those with MS," Dr. Giuliani says. "This is a new drug target for MS that is specific for the neurodegenerative processes following inflammation." Dr.
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