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Old cells repair damage in the brains of multiple sclerosis patients

Can brain cell damage ever be repaired?

A new study shows that there is a very limited regeneration of cells in the brains of patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). These findings underline the importance of treating MS at an early stage of disease progression, when the affected cells can repair the damage, as they are not replaced by new ones. The results are published in the journal Nature by researchers from Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University in Sweden.

Nerve cells in the brain communicate with one another through nerve fibres that form complex networks. Many nerve fibres are insulated by a casing of myelin, which contributes to the high-speed transmission of nerve impulses. Myelin is not formed by the nerve cells but by another type of cell called oligodendrocytes.

MS is a disease caused by the body’s immune system attacking the myelin and oligodendrocytes. This leads to deteriorated transmission of signals in the nerve fibres and can entail nerve cell death, a combination that causes serious neurological impairments and in severe cases the patient’s death.

The disease progression in MS usually fluctuates between periods of deterioration and periods of remission. Studies in mice have shown that damaged myelin can be reformed, and that this requires generation of new oligodendrocytes that make the myelin. It has been assumed that periods of remission in MS patients are caused by newly formed oligodendrocytes replacing the lost myelin.

Read on: Old cells repair damage in the brains of multiple sclerosis patients

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