In MS, myelin, the protective coating around the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord is damaged by the immune system. This protective coating not only protects nerves but also provides nourishment and support, and without it nerve cells will eventually die. Current MS therapies suppress the immune system but do not promote the repair of nerve cells which have been previously damaged.
Professor Trevor Kilpatrick and his team are investigating a protein called Tyro3 which in the laboratory has been shown to improve the natural repair processes in the brain by causing the production of myelin. In this project, this team will determine whether producing more myelin in laboratory models of MS is enough to reverse the damage associated with MS. They will also test if certain other medications, already approved for treating other diseases, (in what is known as drug repurposing) are able to promote new myelin production in the brain.
These studies could lead to the creation of new therapies or re-purposing of current therapies to enhance myelin repair, and slow down or stop the progression of MS.
Professor Kilpatrick and his team have made considerable progress in deciphering the mechanisms of how the Tyro3 protein might be aiding in the remyelination process. This is an important step if medications targeting Tyro3 are going to be developed and used to enhance remyelination in people with MS.
Although their study was only in the early stages, they have made some important findings that will inform how and when we could use any therapies aimed at activating Tyro3. In addition to focusing on the brain and spinal cord, they are also focusing on parts of the visual system, which is impacted in the absence of Tyro3. The team are currently investigating why this is the case. By understanding the full role of this protein in MS, we can better understand how targeting it may be beneficial as a treatment for MS.
These studies could lead to the creation of new therapies or the re-purposing of current therapies approved for other diseases to enhance myelin repair, slow down or stop the progression of MS.
The results of this study have been presented at national and international conferences, with a scientific manuscript currently in preparation.
Updated: 11 June 2020
Updated: 05 January, 2018