Researchers at the University of Alberta may have delineated the a possible mechanism that underlies multiple sclerosis. In the process of studying a fundamental process associated with brain cell death that might affect cells compromised in MS, U of A neurologist Chris Power and his PhD student Brienne McKenzie may have found a drug that could potentially treat patients with MS.
The researchers discovered a cellular process referred to as pyroptosis by using VX-765 – a drug that inhibits an enzyme that is chiefly responsible for the cellular process. Pyroptosis is a type of programmed cell death that is associated with inflammation. However, its role in MS has not been previously established. Dr Power and his team were able to show that the process occurs in brain tissues from MS patients and in lab models of MS.
MS is a disease of the brain and spinal cord, and there is currently no cure for it. In addition, factors responsible for the development of the disease are currently unknown. This makes the discovery by Dr Power’s research team novel as it, for the first time, identifies an enzyme that promotes pyroptosis in brain tissues as the culprit.
As report by the U of A’s Folio, this discovery could be a “…game changer, because we discovered a fundamental mechanism by which brain cells are damaged in MS that couples inflammation with neurodegeneration,” says Dr Power.
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The paper associated with this study is published in PNAS on June 12 and can be accessed here