Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which neuroinflammation leads to long-term disability due to a damaged nervous system. For this reason, the loss of nerve cells has become an increasing focus of research regarding the disease.
A joint Exeter (Paul Eggleton/Nick Gutowski)-Alberta (Thomas Simmen/Frabizio Giulliani) research team have identified a protein Rab32 that is present in larger amounts in the brains of people with MS, compared to healthy individuals. They discovered that this protein leads to mis-communication between the calcium stores and energy producing components of the nerve cells causing them to malfunction. This causes toxicity in the brain cells, leading to nerve cell death in MS patients. This discovery allows us to better understand how to help nerve cell survive in MS and focus on developing new treatments. Additional RD&E funded research is now underway to try and control the amount of this and other proteins in individuals who have MS back to normal levels. This current work is ongoing with the participation of people with MS in the region.