Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MS: Rebuilding in the brain

02.10.2012
In patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, the brain is capable of compensating for certain disorders to some extent. How it does this has been examined in detail by medics from Würzburg University Hospital. Their findings may help to improve treatment.

Patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS) typically present with centers of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, which cause symptoms that range in severity depending on site and size. For example, sufferers feel a tingling sensation in their extremities, they stumble more or they have difficulties seeing. In extreme cases, they become incapable of moving around on their own and are confined to a wheelchair.

How the brain compensates for damage

The brain, however, often manages to minimize the functional damage caused by such centers, i.e. the damage that is noticeable to the patient. It has various “tools” at its disposal for this purpose: firstly, processes that are based on a rapid reinforcement or reduction of nerve cell contacts; secondly, the transfer (usually with a delay) of certain tasks from the damaged region of the brain to a healthy one. “Plasticity” is the name science has given to this ability on the part of the brain to adapt to changed conditions.

The answer to the question as to which mechanisms actually underlie this compensation in MS patients is of great clinical value. If medicine were to manage to boost the compensation mechanisms in a suitable location with the help of drugs or physiotherapy, it might be possible to delay or even prevent the onset of disabilities that are caused by MS.
Plasticity in the locomotor system

Now scientists from the University of Würzburg have managed to make some progress in the search for the processes responsible. Together with colleagues from Bamberg and Leipzig they have taken are closer look at a variant of the neuroplastic processes that begin rapidly: the so-called excitability-decreasing plasticity, which is significant in the focus on certain movements. The team led by the medics Professor Joseph Claßen and Dr. Daniel Zeller has now published its findings in the online journal BioMed Central – Neurology.

“We were able to show that an early form of neuroplasticity is fully retained in the locomotor system of patients slightly to moderately affected by MS despite pre-existing inflammatory damage,” concludes Daniel Zeller, physician at the university’s Department of Neurology.
The study

14 MS patients and a control group of 14 healthy participants were examined by the scientists as part of this study. With the help of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), they temporarily “paralyzed” an area of the brain that is responsible for hand movement and then examined whether “healthy brains” and “MS brains” differ in their response to this. “Studying this form of plasticity in multiple sclerosis is especially interesting,” says Zeller. After all, it directly targets those mechanisms that limit the excitability of neurons. This means that it might be possible to translate the results directly into treatment strategies.

So, what do these results reveal? “Together with the findings of an earlier study we conducted we can say that there is no evidence that the early stages of MS are accompanied by a disruption of the initial compensation steps in the brain,” says Zeller.

In terms of rehabilitation for sufferers this means that it would be better if corresponding approaches were aimed at boosting later forms of plasticity, such as the recruitment of other regions of the brain for the execution of a certain task.

About multiple sclerosis

The “disease with 1000 faces” is how multiple sclerosis (MS) is sometimes described. The reason for this name is that the clinical picture can differ dramatically from patient to patient – in terms of both the progression of the disease and the symptoms suffered.

However, there is one finding that is the same in principle for everyone: multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where one particular type of brain cell, known as an oligodendrocyte, is destroyed by the immune system. Oligodendrocytes form an insulating layer around the extensions of nerve cells that is required for efficient impulse conduction. If this conduction is disturbed as a consequence of damage to the insulating layer, the nerves cannot transfer relevant “messages” as effectively as before.

According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Germany, around 2.5 million people worldwide have MS. The latest projections indicate that some 130,000 sufferers live in Germany; around 2,500 people are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Excitability decreasing central motor plasticity is retained in multiple sclerosis patients. Daniel Zeller, Su-Yin Dang, David Weise, Peter Rieckmann, Klaus V Toyka, Joseph Classen. BMC Neurology 2012, 12:92 doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-92

Contact
Dr. Daniel Zeller, T: +49 (0)931 201-23115,
e-mail: Zeller_D@klinik.uni-wuerzburg.de

Gunnar Bartsch | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator
23.02.2018 | University of Turku

nachricht Minimising risks of transplants
22.02.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>