Multiple sclerosis develops as the myelin sheath of nerve fibers are damaged.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a long-lasting disease that can affect virtually any part of the human body. Everything from muscle control to the optic nerves in the eye responsible for our vision can become compromised, leading multiple sclerosis sufferers to have difficulty in all aspects of their lives.
The condition is thought to be the result of the body’s own immune system attacking myelin sheaths – a specialized membrane enriched in lipids (fat) surrounding nerve fibers. Now, a team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has found a possible explanation for this phenomenon.
The destruction of myelin leads to communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body, causing MS symptoms, with permanent damage to these nerves being an eventuality. Additionally, the body’s ability to regenerate myelin decreases with age.
Autoimmune disorders like MS result from innate immune cells attacking healthy tissue. The myelin covering nerve fibers can be compared to that of the protective coating found on electrical wires. If it were to get damaged, the electricity would not reach its destination. When the protective myelin is damaged and the nerve fiber is exposed, the message that was traveling from the brain along the nerve may be slowed or blocked.
Multiple sclerosis is thought to develop in people due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Signs and symptoms of the disease may differ greatly from person to person depending on the location of the affected nerve fibers. What follows are some of these presentations:
- Partial or complete loss of vision – usually in one eye
- Prolonged double vision
- Tremor or lack of coordination
- Numbness or weakness in the limbs on one side
- Tingling or pain in parts of the body
- Slurred speech
- Problems with bowel and bladder function
It is not known why immune systems attack myelin, but what is known is that persistent inflammation prevents myelin regeneration, a hallmark finding in multiple sclerosis.
Read full article: Possible explanation for multiple sclerosis could lead to better treatment
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