April 8th, 2004
Boston Cure Project
Scientists comparing autopsy brain tissue of people with MS with control brains have found a significant increase in the amount of citrullinated GFAP in normal appearing white matter (NAWM) in MS brain. GFAP is a filament protein produced by astrocytes, a support cell found in the brain; citrullination is an alteration whereby one type of amino acid (arginine) is converted to the compound citrulline. The study involved exposing brain tissue samples to antibodies that react with GFAP and citrullinated proteins, treating the samples with stains that bind with the antibodies, and then examining the samples to see where the staining is most dense. They found that staining was much more intense in the NAWM in MS brain compared with control white matter, and was particularly dense in the areas surrounding MS plaques, although staining in the plaques themselves was relatively light. They also found reactive astrocytes at the boundary between white and gray matter in MS samples.
Like many of these types of studies, this one raises more questions
than it answers -- why is there more citrullinated GFAP in MS white matter,
could it be partly responsible for for the progression of MS (the authors
hypothesize an autoimmune role for it), does it have anything to do with
axonal damage which also is found at plaque boundaries, etc.? Still, it
is encouraging to see MS scientists actually studying the affected tissue
directly and trying to find explanations for how MS develops and evolves.
Copyright © 2004, Boston Cure Project