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Science Could Point to MS Treatments

A protein is key to the growth of nerve coverings damaged by the disease

THURSDAY, Nov. 2, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- New insights into mechanisms controlling the formation of myelin -- the white matter that coats all nerves -- could help lead to treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) and other myelin-related diseases and injury.

Myelin plays an important role in the overall health and function of the nervous system. MS and other diseases or injuries that damage myelin result in serious problems including uncoordinated movements, neuropathic pain and paralysis.

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) and the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal in Canada found that a protein called Par-3 plays an important role in the formation of myelin during nerve development.

Par-3 acts like a "molecular scaffold" to set up an "organizing center" that brings together proteins essential for the formation of myelin, the researchers said.

They found that when they disrupted this "organizing center," cells could not form myelin normally.

The findings, which appear in the Nov. 3 issue of the journal Science, open the way to new research to identify other components that are recruited when Par-3 sets up the "organizing center," said researcher Jonah Chan, assistant professor of cell and neurobiology at USC's Keck School of Medicine.

This line of research could help scientists find ways to manipulate the Par-3 pathway in order to promote re-myelination of diseased or damaged nerves.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about multiple sclerosis.

SOURCE: University of Southern California, news release, Nov. 2, 2006
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