Study IDs brain's lymphatic vessels as new avenue to treat MS

September 19, 2018
New research suggest lymphatic vessels that clean the brain of harmful material play a crucial role in the development and progression of multiple sclerosis. The vessels appear to carry previously unknown messages from the brain to the immune system that ultimately trigger the disease symptoms. Blocking those messages may offer doctors a new way to treat the condition.

The researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine were able to impede the development of MS in mice by targeting the lymphatic vessels surrounding the brain. They used multiple strategies to block the lymphatics or destroy them with a precision laser. All led to the same outcome: a decrease in the number of destructive immune cells capable of causing paralysis.

The message from the brain that appears to drive MS remains poorly understood. The researchers can tell the message is being sent, and they can tell what it is instructing the immune system to do, but they don't yet know what mechanism the brain is using to send it.

Results of mouse model studies sometimes do not translate to humans and may be years away from being a marketable treatment. Further, the researchers noted that removing the vessels did not stop MS entirely. That suggests there are likely other factors at play.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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