ROCHESTER, MINN. -- In a major scientific discovery, Mayo Clinic scientists conducting research in mice with central nervous system damage have found a way to enhance the immune system that resulted in nervous system repair in the mice. The study detailing the findings will be published in the Tuesday, June 6 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In their study, Mayo Clinic scientists identified two natural human antibodies that, when given to mice with a chronic, demyelinating disease, caused the regrowth and repair of the myelin sheath. Myelin surrounds nerve fibers and acts as "insulation," allowing them to function properly. Previously, it was thought that damage to myelin was permanent and repair to the nervous system was not possible. In humans, damage to the myelin sheath can be caused by traumatic injury or by diseases such as multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis and other demyelinating or genetic conditions.
"Clearly, our study shows that the two natural human antibodies, when introduced into mice that had nervous system damage, safely caused substantial repair to the myelin and the nervous system," says Moses Rodriguez, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist and the principal author of the study. "This is a significant step forward in our understanding of the nervous system and the immune system. Whereas we know that the immune system can have a protective effect on the body, we now are beginning to discover that the immune system may be harnessed to effect repair to the nervous system in the mouse model."
In the laboratory study, mice were injected with a virus that caused demyelination in the nervous system similar to the damage multiple sclerosis causes in humans. The mice were treated
with two natural human monoclonal antibodies after the onset of demyelination. This treatment
promoted remyelination to an equivalent or greater extent than human intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), an established treatmen
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