All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2003

The role of astrocytes in MS

Friday October 17
Boston Cure Project

Astrocytes (star-shaped glial cells of the central nervous system) are present in MS lesions and form scar tissue in chronic plaques. However, their role in the initiation and development of MS lesions is not well understood. A couple of recent papers have addressed this issue by taking a closer look at the roles that astrocytes play in the pathology of MS. In one paper, a team of scientists studied six lesions obtained via autopsy from a man with primary progressive MS. They found that hypertrophic (activated, enlarged) astrocytes could be found containing myelin and axonal debris, not only inside active lesions but also in areas outside lesions where inflammation was minimal. This suggests that astrocytes, in addition to clearing away debris, may also have had a hand in this case in the actual destruction of myelin and axons. Also found in late remyelinating lesions were astrocyte precursors, which may have been there to help stimulate remyelination.

The other paper describes an effort to characterize the proteins expressed by the scar astrocytes that are found in chronic lesions. Several proteins were found to be differentially expressed in the astrocytes found in scars. Perhaps this knowledge will enhance our understanding of scar formation and lead to therapies aimed at reducing it.

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