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Multiple sclerosis, a new mechanism behind the disease discovered

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Discovered a new mechanism underlying the development of multiple sclerosis: it is a malfunction of copper transport, a process that leads to demyelination, that is the alteration of myelin, the sheath that surrounds many nerve fibers.

This was discovered by researchers from the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, coordinated by Cinthia Farina, who published the study in the journal Pnas. There would therefore be a link between the excessive release of copper by astrocytes (cells present in brain areas), the TrkB receptor and the loss of myelin in patients, which then causes problems with motor activities.

One of the functions of copper in the body is to bind the proteins involved in energy metabolism and those with antioxidant action. As with other metals, however, copper is highly toxic if present in excessive quantities, and for this reason it is necessary to strictly control its transport, absorption, release and storage within the cells of the nervous system.

The San Raffaele researchers, thanks to funding from the Ministry of Health and the Italian Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (Fism), have verified that astrocytes are involved in the regulation of copper in the central nervous system, and in particular the TrkB receptors present on their surface. These receptors are usually activated by neurotrophins (proteins considered beneficial because they promote the protection and regeneration of neuronal tissues), which are however absent in the areas of the brain affected by multiple sclerosis.

“We have shown that TrkB receptors can be activated, in those with multiple sclerosis, even in the absence of neurotrophins, because they respond to other inflammatory and toxic signals”, explains Emanuela Colombo, first author of the study.

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The result, according to the researchers, could therefore help develop new therapies.

(Unioneonline / vl)

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