molecule graphic used to illustrate MS and oxygen deprivation

Oxygen depravation eases MS in study

Periods of oxygen deprivation known as acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) eased the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) a new study on mice found.

AIH is a non-invasive therapy that has emerging potential to help repair myelin, but there is limited research with MS.

Researchers induced a particular form of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mice which resembled progressive MS. When the animals reached near peak disease scores, they began AIH with treatment consisting of 10 cycles of five minutes at 11% oxygen and then five minutes at 21% oxygen, which was alternated and given over the course of two hours, across seven days.

The mice whose oxygen was kept consistent demonstrated typical EAE disease progression. But those undergoing AIH had significant improvements which began as early as the first day of treatment and continued throughout the 14-day study.

AIH-treated mice had less inflammation than the control group, plus more myelin and myelinated nerve fibres. The treatment caused the recruitment of oligodendrocyte cells, the producers of myelin, to areas of inflammation.

Proteins that get dispersed after remyelination were observed to re-cluster with the treatment, which is a sign of myelin reforming.

Other markers of improvement were also seen with the treatment.

“This study supports AIH treatment as a novel and translatable therapeutic strategy with a tremendous capacity to enhance repair in demyelinating [brain and spinal cord] diseases such as MS,” the researchers wrote.

For the team, these results were conclusive in showing the beneficial effects of oxygen deprivation as an MS treatment.