Scientists in Israel have discovered an abnormality in neurons’ protective membrane that may allow the body’s immune system to attack itself by mistake.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society pinpoints a structural instability in the myelin membranes surrounding the neurons. It is this defect that seems to give the immune system access to otherwise protected areas.
Commenting on his findings, principal investigator Professor Roy Beck of Tel Aviv University’s School of Physics and Astronomy and Sagol School of Neurosciences told ISRAEL21c.org: “Current therapeutic approaches have focused on the autoimmune response without identifying a clear mechanism. Our research suggests a new avenue for multiple sclerosis therapies and diagnostics.”
“After years of research, we were amazed to discover that a possible trigger for the outbreak of the condition could be found in the membrane’s physical structure,” he said.
He explained that the lipid-and-protein building blocks of the myelin sheaths give the membrane a shape that is critical to their functioning.
“If the basic building blocks are straight, the membrane will be flat, which is the preferred structure for a neuron’s ‘insulating tape,’” he explained. “However, if they exhibit a more cone-like shape, the membrane will tend to form closed round cylinders. These produce spontaneous holes in the surface of the sheath, rendering it vulnerable to attack.”
Professor Beck said: “The next step is to find a way to reverse the disease progression and find new techniques for early detection.”
Source: MS-UK (20/06/17)