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How heat and salt may contribute to multiple sclerosis

Israeli study shows how changes in the cellular environment damage the molecular structure of nerve cells’ insulating coating, possibly leading to MS.

Worldwide, about 3 million people are afflicted by multiple sclerosis (MS), an incurable autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the fatty membrane (myelin sheath) that insulates the long extensions of nerve cells. Damaged myelin prevents nerves from communicating with the brain properly, causing symptoms such as blurred vision, difficulty in walking, dizziness and muscular weakness. Although there are therapies that can slow the progression of the disease — including the drug Copaxone developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel — the causes for MS onset are still not fully know

Researchers from Prof. Roy Beck-Barkai’s lab at Tel Aviv University’s School of Physics, in collaboration with researchers from the Technion and the Weizmann Institute (including Prof. Ruth Arnon, one of Copaxone’s co-developers), set out to find how small structural changes in the membranes affect the myelin layer’s function.

In a previous study done in 2016, they found that the myelin sheath’soptimal function as an insulating layer depends on how these membranes are organized.

When functioning at their best, myelin membranes are stacked on top of one another like layers of puff pastry. But sometimes myelin membranes instead are shaped like tubes, and this abnormal structure disrupts function and potentially leads to diseases such as MS.

“After discovering that structural changes in the membranes can affect disease development, we attempted to unveil the factors that may lead to these changes,” Beck explained.

This article has been republished with permission by www.ISRAEL21c.org. Click here to continue reading.

Israel21c Staff | ISRAEL21C

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