Why multiple sclerosis strikes mostly females may be linked to protein
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/9/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a degenerative disease that attacks the nervous system, overwhelmingly strikes females. Ninety percent of MS sufferers are female. Researchers now say that the key difference in the brains of male and female MS patients may explain why more women than men get the disease.
MS typically attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, which causes problems with muscle movement, balance and vision.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Higher levels of protein S1PR2 were revealed in tests on the brains of female mice and dead women with MS than in male equivalents.
Research conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine found four times more women than men are currently diagnosed with MS. Health experts said they considered the findings as "really interesting."
MS typically attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, which causes problems with muscle movement, balance and vision. There is no cure for MS, although there are treatments that can help in the early stages of the disease.
Examining patients with relapsing remitting MS, where people have distinct attacks of symptoms that then fade away either partially or completely, researchers in Missouri found that 85 percent of people with MS are diagnosed with this type.
Scientists studied the blood vessels and brains of healthy mice, mice with MS, and mice without the gene for S1PR2, a blood vessel receptor protein, to see how it affected MS severity. Researchers also looked at the brain tissue samples of 20 people after they had died. They found high levels of S1PR2 in the areas of the brain typically damaged by MS in both mice and people.
The study found that the activity of the gene coding for S1PR2 was positively correlated with the severity of the disease in mice.
Scientists said S1PR2 could work by helping to make the blood-brain barrier, in charge of stopping potentially harmful substances from entering the brain and spinal fluid and more permeable.
The study found that the more permeable barrier could lead attacking cells, which cause MS, into the central nervous system.
"We were very excited to find the molecule, as we wanted to find a target for treatment that didn't involve targeting the immune cells," Professor Robyn Klein, of the Washington University School of Medicine, said. "This link [between MS and S1PR2] is completely new - it has never been found before."
Klein said she did not know why the levels of S1PR2 were higher in women with MS, adding she had found estrogen had "no acute role." She said she's looking at taking her findings to clinical trials in the "next few years," she added.
Dr. Emma Gray, of the MS Society, said: "We don't yet fully understand why MS affects more women than men, and it's an area that's intrigued scientists, and people with MS, for many years.
"A number of theories have been suggested in the past, including the influence of hormones or possible genetic factors - and this study explores one such genetic factor in further detail, which is really interesting."
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