Dr. Jane Welsh of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Mary Meagher, a professor in the Department of Psychology, have been working to discover a treatment for multiple sclerosis at Texas A&M University for the past five years.
MS is caused when the bodys defense system begins to destroy myelin, the substance that surrounds and insulates nerve fibers. This process is categorized as an auto immune process because it is an abnormal immune response directed against the central nervous system. Once nerve fibers are exposed, motor failures start to occur and an individual may experience paralysis.
Researchers are looking at how stress may affect the immune systems susceptibility to developing an MS-like disease, Theilers murine encephalomyelitis virus. Welsh and Meagher are focusing on how susceptible mice are to being infected with TMEV when under stress. Three different types of stressors are being used for testing, and the role of stress hormones is being explored. Meagher said her research focuses on whether clearance of the virus can occur only when the animal is stressed and the immune system suppressed. Initially, it appears that during the early infection process, stress exacerbates the disease by increasing vulnerability and speeding the onset of the disease and development of symptoms, she said. Also, the early acute phase is more severe when the animal is stressed. If the study eventually confirms these preliminary results, some treatments might include antidepressants and/or teaching coping mechanisms for individuals who are more likely to be susceptible to the disease, Meagher said.
Stress is not the only factor for the cause of MS. Meagher agrees with
Welsh that genetics may also play a role.
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