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Brain Cell Death May Cause Multiple Sclerosis

Finding the specific area of brain cell death that triggers multiple sclerosis could aid in efforts to find a treatment for this disease.

It may be the death of brain cells and not environmental or viral causes that bring on the onset of multiple sclerosis.

That’s what researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago have concluded.

The scientists were able to trigger a disease that mimics multiple sclerosis (MS) in otherwise healthy mice. The disease developed after the rodents were injected with a protein that kills oligodendrocytes, the cells responsible for making the protective myelin coating for nerves cells.

The conclusion that the death of brain cells can trigger MS contradicts widely held theories that exposure to some external agent — whether environmental or viral — is the trigger. This study suggests that no matter how the process begins, the immune system is responding to the proteins released by dying brain cells.

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