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New compounds appear to protect myelin and nerve fibers




A compound developed at Oregon Health & Science University appears to protect nerve fibers and a fat sheath called myelin that covers nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Discoveries published in Journal of Neuroimmunology, May be important in treating or preventing the progression of multiple sclerosis and other central nervous system disorders. New research in mouse models advances early research to develop compounds that have already been shown to be promising by stimulating myelin repair (known as sobetylome).

“Sobetilome and related drugs are effective in stimulating myelin repair after damage occurs. Our new findings can prove that these drugs are also beneficial in preventing the development of damage. “Suggests,” said Dennis Bourdett, MD, a former chairman and emeritus professor and senior author. Department of Neurology, OHSU School of Medicine. “This means that these drugs have dual effects that we have never known before.”

Nerve fibers carry electrical impulses between nerve cells, and myelin is an insulator-like protective sheath that covers nerve fibers.

Myelin and nerve fibers are damaged by multiple sclerosis, slowing or blocking the electrical signals we need to see, move muscles, feel sensations, and think. Researchers have previously developed sovetyrome as a compound that mimics the effects of thyroid hormone, which stimulates the maturation of progenitor cells known as myelin-producing oligodendrocytes. OHSU scientists have developed a strategy to significantly increase the delivery of sobetylome to the mouse brain. After the injury occurs, the nerve fiber sheath is remyelinated.

The OHSU technology associated with these findings is licensed to emerging biotechnology companies working to develop new drugs for demyelinating diseases such as MS. The company’s co-founders include Bourdette and two other co-authors on new research. Dr. Tom Scanlan, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at OHSU School of Medicine, and Dr. Ben Emery, an associate professor. Professor of Neurology, OHSU School of Medicine.

In a new study, scientists tested the compound in a mouse model of MS by inducing autoimmune diseases and causing inflammatory damage to myelin and nerve fibers.

Priya Chaudhary, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at OHSU School of Medicine, who focuses on developing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, said the technology is a common step in drug discovery.

“It’s the most commonly used model in the development of new treatments, and it’s important to show potential drug efficacy,” says Chaudhary.

Researchers have found that stimulating the protective response of cells that produce and maintain myelin can prevent the development of damage to myelin and nerve fibers. They also reduced the activity of microglia, a type of inflammatory cells in the brain and spinal cord that are involved in causing damage to multiple sclerosis and other diseases.

“The effect is impressive and is at least partially consistent with a neuroprotective effect that specifically inhibits myelin and axonal degeneration and oligodendrocyte loss,” the authors write.

This finding, if proven in clinical trials involving people, may be particularly useful for people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis early in the progression of the disease.

“The drug may protect the nervous system from damage and reduce the severity of the disease,” Burdett said.


Journal reference:

Chaudhary, P. , et al. (2020) Thyroid hormone and hyperthyroidism inhibit myelin and axonal degeneration and oligodendrocyte loss in EAE. Journal of Neuroimmunology.


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