Our brains and spinal cords conduct messages similarly to how electricity travels from circuit to light. Our nerves are like copper wiring inside, where a fatty protective layer called myelin acts similarly to the rubber coating that surrounds copper wires.
Our bodies rely heavily on myelin to keep us comfortable and free of nerve pain. If that fatty protective layer is damaged or lost, the nerves in the brain and spinal cord rub against one another and cause a myriad of issues, including slowed or blocked messages between nerves.
Degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) involve loss of myelin, which serves as a central cause of the symptoms associated with them. The blocked messaging between nerves causes patients with MS to have difficulty with movement, speech, and sight.
Molecular interaction that mediates protein folding neurons play a vital role in normal brain function and in neurodegenerative diseases, and, fortunately, scientists have made new strides in unraveling the underpinning of these disorders with a compound that could help repair the protective myelin layer. This compound is called sobetirome, and it has been known to trigger the production of myelin for some time. However, scientists are now seeing that sobetirome can not only help to repair and replace the myelin protection on the nerves, but it can also help to keep the nerves themselves from dying.
According to former chair and professor emeritus of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine Dennis Bourdette, MD: ‘Sobetirome and related drugs are effective at stimulating myelin repair after damage has occurred. Our new findings now suggest that these drugs could also prove to be beneficial for preventing damage from occurring. It means that these drugs have a dual effect that we didn’t know about before.’
Along with added protection to the nerves of the brain and spine, sobetirome also seems to reduce microglial activity. Migroglia is an inflammatory cell that is found in the brain and spinal cord. It is associated with inflammation, which can exacerbate symptoms of MS and other degenerative diseases. A reduction in inflammation can contribute to the overall health and wellness of the brain and spinal cord, further promoting wellness in patients with MS.
The effect on degenerative disease
Fortunately, these findings are very promising. Instead of prolonging the patient’s descent into impaired function, this discovery may be able to prevent the descent altogether.
If this method works in humans as well as it does in mice test subjects, it has the potential to drastically reduce the impact these diseases can have and allow patients to live longer, happier lives.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.