Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease that currently has no cure, but scientists may have uncovered a new therapy involving a lipid that regulates inflammation.
MS is an autoimmune disorder characterized by chronic inflammation, as the immune system mistakenly attacks myelin, the protective coating around neurons.
So far there’s no known cure, but existing treatments can reduce symptoms, prevent flare-ups and slow progression. In the new study, researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona uncovered a new potential treatment.
The key is a lipid known as Maresin-1, which plays a vital function in regulating inflammation. Normally, inflammation is an important response to infection, helping the immune system clear out the problem.
Sometimes inflammation doesn’t get the memo that its job is done, and lingers too long, often causing pain and contributing to conditions such as MS. It’s the job of lipid mediators, such as maresin-1, to shut down inflammation before it overstays its welcome.
“Our results suggest that one of the body’s mechanisms for resolving inflammation is not working properly in patients with multiple sclerosis, which could partly explain the episodes of autoimmunity they experience,” said Dr. Rubén López-Vales, lead author of the study.
The work could pave the way for new treatments for MS and other autoimmune diseases.