A protein found in HDL, or ''good,'' cholesterol may help protect against the effects of multiple sclerosis, according to new research.
In the study, patients with MS had much lower levels of the protein than did healthy people, says study researcher Lidia Gardner, PhD. She is an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Those with more severe forms of MS, known as progressive, had even lower levels of the protein than those with a 'milder' form called relapsing-remitting. The protein is known as ApoA1.
ApoA1 is the main component of HDL. It is known to protect the body from inflammation.
In MS patients, inflammation occurs when the body's immune system attacks cells of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve.
Gardner presented the findings at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in San Diego.
"I think it's an interesting preliminary study that has potential [applications] for people living with MS,'' says Bruce Bebo, PhD. He is associate vice president of discovery research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He was not involved in the study.
Comparing Protein Levels in Patients
Gardner and her team took blood samples from four groups. They included a group without MS and a group for each of the three forms of MS.
Compared to those without MS, all the MS patients had lower levels of the cholesterol protein. This was true no matter what type of MS they had. It was reduced by 25% in people with relapsing remitting MS, 50% in people with secondary progressive MS, and 75% in people with primary progressive MS.
"I think you have to take the findings with some caution, because they are very preliminary," Bebo says.
Other research has looked at prescribing cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins, to increase good cholesterol in MS patients. The studies have produced conflicting findings, Gardner says.
She plans to focus next on the process of making and then increasing ApoA1 to help.
For now, lifestyle changes such as eating a vegetarian, vegan, or low-fat diet may help boost levels of the cholesterol protein, Gardner says. Exercise may also help.
Source: WebMD ©2005-2013 WebMD, LLC (13/11/13)
By delving into the components of protective nerve coatings that get damaged in multiple sclerosis, scientists have identified a handful of lipid molecules that appear to be attacked by an immune system run amok.
Bolstering the supply of these lipids might help preserve these nerve coatings and, in the process, knock back the inflammation that contributes to their destruction, researchers report in the June 6 Science Translational Medicine.
In MS patients, rogue antibodies assault myelin, the fatty sheath that insulates nerves and facilitates signaling. Inflammation exacerbates the attack on myelin and the cells that make it. But other details of MS, including the roles of myelin lipids, have been less clearly understood.
“I think this is a very good study,” says Francisco Quintana, an immunologist at Harvard Medical School. “Overall, there are not many papers on lipids in MS. Technically, they are challenging and require a lot of expertise.”
To explore the role of lipids, the researchers studied spinal fluid from people with MS, healthy people and patients with other neurological disorders. Tests on the fluid showed that antibodies targeted four lipids more often in MS patients than in the other groups. Examination of autopsied brains from MS patients and people without MS revealed that, in the MS patients, these four lipids were depleted at the sites where the nerve coatings were damaged.
A nerve needs an intact myelin sheath to conduct signals. “It short-circuits if they are not there,” says study coauthor Lawrence Steinman, a neurologist at Stanford University. This nerve damage causes loss of muscle control and other symptoms characteristic of MS.
Steinman and his colleagues conducted tests in mice with a condition similar to MS and found that injections of the lipids over several weeks could limit severity of the disease and even reverse some symptoms in the animals. The four lipids — abbreviated as PGPC, azPC, azPC ester and POPS — share a similar phosphate group, to which the rogue antibodies bind.
Other tests in mice showed that side chains of fatty acids, attached to the lipids like fingers on a glove, “keep the myelin-making cells alive and reduce the inflammatory response,” Steinman says. “It turns out that the side chains are imbued with protective properties.” They repel inflammation and even kill the T cells that trigger it, the researchers found.
It could be that people with MS, who lack adequate supplies of these lipids and their protective fatty acids, fail to keep up with the destruction caused by antibodies and inflammation. But that dismal numbers game might present an opening for future research, Steinman says. Just as the mice benefited from receiving extra lipids, human patients might, too. And some tests now show that mice can take the lipids orally and still improve, he adds.
Quintana says that further animal studies will be needed to clarify the full effects of giving lipids to fight MS. “But it could potentially lead to some kind of therapy.”
Joan Goverman, an immunologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, says the researchers deserve credit for their approach. “Looking at humans and then going back and incorporating that in animal models is a powerful way to understand the disease.”
Source: Science News © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2012 (07/06/12)