In humans there’s a condition that inhibits the transfer of neurons or signals leading to distressing disabilities. They usually lead to active sessions of MS that last for almost 2 hours which can have damaging consequences. Scientists have now discovered a new better model; mice that develop MS condition that can be used to test for potential cures.
Research into potential cures has always been hindered by lack of a model for the disease. In production of a better model, scientist have discovered that when mice with type 1 diabetes were injected with a form of protein, they suffered periods of regressive disability associated with brain abrasion in humans. They have been able to monitor this occurrence using a magnetic resonance imaging device.
Tel Aviv University researchers have discovered a better model – mice with type 1 diabetes that actually develop MS and can thus be used to test the mechanisms and potential treatments. The researchers hope this breakthrough could lead eventually to the development of better treatments and maybe one day a cure. The research was recently published in Experimental Neurology.
In people, the “shorting” of electrical signals inhibits their transfer between neurons, often leading to devastating disabilities such as blindness and paralysis. Active periods of MS last for anywhere between a few minutes to weeks. These attacks are caused by lesions in the brain that develop, partly recover and then recur. The more attacks there are, the greater the risk of permanent disability.
Israeli scientists are among the prime developers of medications such as Copaxone that shorten attacks and reduce their intensity. But research into a potential cure has often been stymied by the lack of a genuine animal model for the human disease. MS does not present in this model as it does in human sufferers – most mouse models experience a single inflammatory peak that leaves them with permanent symptoms such muscle paralysis. But the damage can be detected in the spinal cord, not in the brain.
Dr. Dan Frenkel of TAU’s neurobiology department, working with Prof. Yaniv Assaf and doctoral student Hilit Levy, is likely to boost research by producing a better model. The team discovered that when mice with type 1 diabetes are injected with myelin protein, they suffer periods of relapsing and remitting disability associated with brain lesions in man. And for the first time, they’ve been able to monitor this brain lesion process using magnetic resonance imaging.
“We discovered that when we gave them the same myelin protein injection, a mouse model that develops type 1 diabetes will instead show peaks of inflammatory responses similar to those of chronic progressive MS, which relapses and remits,” Frenkel says. The mice also suffer from brain lesions in addition to spinal cord damage, making them a more viable model for studying and developing treatment for MS in humans.
Using a special MRI machine for imaging small animals, the researchers followed each mouse model over the course of several months, noting the activity of the brain and the development of lesions corresponding to peaks of inflammation. The lesions and the inflammation in the brain can be followed in the same way within these animals as in a human with MS, says Frenkel. “Now, we can follow the different stages that occur after the autoimmune response is already triggered and look for different targets that will not only help to enhance recovery, but prevent further damage as well.”
With this new discovery, researchers have been able to observe these brain abrasions in the mouse model and how the brain heals after such attacks, developing treatment options that turn temporary recovery into a permanent one.