TUESDAY, Jan. 19, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- A mutation in a gene called ZFP191 causes central nervous system myelination problems in mice that are similar to what occurs in humans with multiple sclerosis, new research has found.
In multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder, the body attacks and destroys the myelin sheath that insulates and protects nerve fibers of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves). Symptoms range from tingling and numbness in limbs to loss of vision and paralysis. The condition affects about 400,000 people in the United States and about 2.5 million people worldwide.
In the new study, Brian Popko of the University of Chicago and colleagues determined that a gene called ZFP191 is necessary for the development of oligodendrocyte cells, which, in their fully mature form, produce myelin. The researchers also found that mice with a single mutation in ZFP191 have a severe deficiency in central nervous system myelination and suffer tremors and seizures.
According to the study, published in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Genes & Development, the findings may help in efforts to develop ways to promote re-myelination, reduce the accumulation of multiple sclerosis lesions and slow disease progression.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about multiple sclerosis.