Register for updates

 
 

Medicine & Health
RSS Feed
Environmental Factors May Trigger Onset of Multiple Sclerosis
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 9:00:00 AM

Structural changes to protective neural membranes may be involved in onset of neurodegenerative disease, TAU researchers say

A new Tel Aviv University study finds that certain environmental conditions may precipitate structural changes that take place in myelin sheaths in the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS). Myelin sheaths are the "insulating tape" surrounding axons; axons carry electrical impulses in neurons.

The research demonstrates that myelin sheaths undergo structural transitions when triggered by changes in local environmental conditions, such as salt concentration (salinity) and temperature. These transitions, according to the study, render the body vulnerable to autoimmune attacks that can lead to MS.

The research was led by Prof. Roy Beck of TAU's School of Physics and Astronomy and conducted by Rona Shaharabani, a doctoral student in Prof. Beck's lab, and Maor Ram-On, a doctoral student in Prof. Ronen Talmon's lab at the Technion Institute of Technology. It was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS).

Earlier research by Prof. Beck revealed that changes in the structure of myelin sheaths are a factor in the development of MS.

"Current therapeutic approaches have focused on the autoimmune response without identifying the culprit," says Prof. Beck. "We have found that under certain environmental conditions, such as elevated salinity and temperature, myelin sheaths protecting neurons undergo structural transitions consistent with pathological myelin structures in multiple sclerosis."

Physiological conditions are regulated in the body itself, but temperature and salinity are subject to localized external changes. The results presented in the study suggest that even minor changes in these conditions may trigger multiple sclerosis.

"The myelin sheaths undergo structural transitions at the molecular level when affected by different environmental conditions. These small modifications create structural instabilities that allow the immune system to attack neurons," says Shaharabani.

The researchers used X-ray scattering and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) to track and measure the myelin sheaths in healthy and diseased animal models. They found that healthy lamellar membranes spontaneously morphed into different pathological structures of nano-scale tubes called inverted hexagonal shapes.

"These results highlight that local environmental conditions are critical for myelin function. These conditions should be considered as alternative possibilities for early diagnosis and as a means of avoiding the onset of demyelination," says Shaharabani. "Since we believe that these structural modifications result in myelin membrane vulnerability to the immune system attacks, it can help explain the causes of MS and perhaps pave the way for a treatment or a cure.

"Since we now have a new biophysical understanding to investigate the degradation of myelin sheaths, we are following up on other candidates that can induce such structural transition. There are several molecular candidates, including specific proteins and other alterations in the myelin's fatty acids, that are relevant, which may unravel further insights to fight multiple sclerosis and related disorders," Shaharabani concludes.

The full study is available here: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1804275115.

R. Shaharabani, M. Ram-On, Y. Talmon, R. Beck, "Pathological transitions in myelin membranes driven by environmental and multiple sclerosis conditions," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1804275115




Latest News

Egyptian Fruit Bats Trade Food for Sex

Female scroungers form bonds with particular male producers and exchange mating for nourishment, TAU researchers say.

Law Prof. Ariel Porat Named New President of Tel Aviv University

Former Dean of TAU's Buchmann Faculty of Law is an EMET Prize Laureate.

Major Violent Attacks Against Jews Spiked 13% Worldwide in 2018

U.S. had more than 100 cases of severe violence, annual TAU Kantor Center study reports.

New Reading of the Mesha Stele Inscription Has Major Consequences for Biblical History

Line of the inscription lends credence to the story of Balaam in the Book of Numbers, TAU researchers say.

TAU Study Paves Way for Innovative Treatment of Epilepsy

Researchers solve puzzle about brain activity regulation; breakthrough may lead to development of new, effective drugs to suppress seizures.

Hypersociability in Williams Syndrome Result of Myelination Deficits

Axon "insulating tape" suffers from gene deletion that causes social impairment associated with rare disorder, TAU researchers say.

LocalTAU Tackles Florida Stormwater Runoff in Inaugural Pitch Competition

Top scientific teams from Israel's leading university pitch novel solutions to local crisis.

TAU Scientists Print First 3D Heart Using Patient’s Own Cells and Materials

Engineered heart completely matches the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient.

contentSecondary
c

© 2019 American Friends of Tel Aviv University
39 Broadway, Suite 1510 | New York, NY 10006 | 212.742.9070 | info@aftau.org
Privacy policy | Tel Aviv University