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Pregnancy hormone key to repairing nerve cell damage

biological mechanism that produces new myelin in the adult brain and spinal cord and identifies prolactin as a potential therapeutic substance for future testing in people with MS.

"Agents promoting remyelination will be beneficial not only for typical demyelinating diseases like MS," says Dr. Fred (Rusty) Gage, of the Salk Institute, "but also for many other neurological disorders, such as spinal cord injuries and stroke." Gage, an international leader in nervous system repair, was not involved in this study.

Subsequent tests of prolactin in animal models of MS will be required before testing of prolactin on humans can take place, but MS researchers are hopeful human trials can take place within the next several years.

"This discovery has the potential to take MS therapy a step further than current treatments that stabilize the disease in its early stages. By promoting repair, which is the goal of prolactin therapy, we have hope of actually improving symptoms in people with MS," says Dr. Luanne Metz, director of the Calgary MS Clinic in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary and Calgary Health Region.

The study, authored by Weiss, Christopher Gregg, Viktor Shikar, Peter Larsen, Gloria Mak, Andrew Chojnacki and Yong, compared pregnant and virgin female mice of the same age and found that pregnant mice had twice as many myelin-producing cells, called oligodendrocytes, and continued to generate new ones during pregnancy. By chemically destroying myelin around nerve cells, the researchers found that pregnant mice had twice as much new myelin two weeks following the damage as virgin mice and that introducing prolactin mimicked the effects of pregnancy on myelin production and repair in mice that weren't pregnant.

"The results of this study should be well received by people living with MS today," said Dr. William McIlroy, national medical advisor for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
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Source:University of Calgary


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