Multiple sclerosis (MS) refers to a debilitating disease that damages the myelin sheath protecting your nerve fibers. This causes a loss of signaling in your central nervous system.
A recent study performed by the researchers of the University of Chicago has established that a small molecule named Sephin1 may delay this myelin damage in mouse models.
The findings have been recently published in the journal Brain.
Multiple Sclerosis: The Basics
As per the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, almost 2.3 million people suffer from MS on an international level. One million of these patients are present in the United States alone.
According to the experts, MS is a type of autoimmune diseases. In this disease, the immune system of a person starts attacking the healthy tissues of your body in the way it attacks viruses, bacteria, and other invaders.
Autoimmune Characteristics of MS
MS is characterized by inflammatory attacks that destroy myelin, a layer of fatty protein that covers the nerve fibers. The damage to this sheath causes a disruption in the electrical signals between CNS and the rest of the body.
The damage has a tendency to extend to nerve cells, oligodendrocytes, and nerve fibers that produce this myelin.
But what triggers the immune system to attack myelin remains a mystery. Certain studies have pointed out the roles of genes, however, none of them has proven that MS is inheritable.
Other studies have discussed the role of smoking and reduced vitamin D levels in the progression of MS.
The current treatment approaches in case of MS tend to decrease inflammatory attacks on myelin. However, such approaches may dampen the immunity leading to an increased risk of opportunistic infections.
So, the researchers in the present study decided to look for other options of management. Instead of reducing the effects of the immune system, they thought of helping the cells targeted by MS and empowering them to resist the attack.
The team investigated the ISR since it is an innate process and protects the cells from inflammatory attacks by the immune cells.
Certain high blood pressure medicines like guanabenz have been shown to increase ISR in oligodendrocytes. However, it may also lead to side effects like weakness, headache, sleepiness, and dry mouth.
The Role of Sephin1
The team found that Sephin1, derived from guanabenz, can also enhance ISR in the oligodendrocytes without any prominent side effects. It also helps in the prolongation of ISR by blocking the pathway that negatively affects it.
The team then checked the effectiveness of this molecule in mouse models and cell cultures. In cell cultures, Sephin1 was found to prolong ISR in stressed oligodendrocytes.
On the other hand, Sephin1 treatment in a mouse model was found to delay the clinical problems associated with MS.
It was noticed that by reducing the myelin loss and protecting the oligodendrocytes, less myelin debris was produced. This caused a consequent decrease in the immune system responses.
Sephin1 was also found to exert increased benefit when it was combined with interferon beta, an existing drug for MS.