May 24, 2002
Isobel Scarisbrick, Ph.D. (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN) and colleagues have found that a newly discovered protein – myelencephalon-specific protease (MSP) – is dramatically increased in the brain tissue of people with multiple sclerosis, particularly where the myelin coating that insulates nerve fibers is under active attack from the immune system (Brain, June 2002). This study was funded in part by two National MS Society Pilot Research Awards, a grant program that supports investigation of unique or novel ideas with the potential to open significant new areas of research on MS.
When functioning normally, MSP contributes to proper function of myelin-making cells. When overly active, however, this protein may facilitate entry of immune cells into the brain, contribute to tissue destruction, and may harm myelin-making cells.
Since Dr. Scarisbrick’s team discovered MSP in 1997, they have developed probes and other tools to determine its role in myelin loss. If further research can confirm the role of this protein, these findings may lead to the development of therapies that inhibit MSP to block tissue damage in MS.
-- Sara M. Bernstein
© 2002 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society