A protein called collagenase-2 could be involved in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), say international researchers, which could prompt new methods of tackling the disease.
MS affects around 85,000 UK adults and is the most common disabling neurological condition in young adults.
Collagenase-2 is a matrix metalloproteinase. Evidence already suggests these contribute to MS by degrading the tissue that maintains the blood-brain barrier. This allows unwanted cells to invade and break down nerves. Large amounts of these proteins are found in the blood and spinal fluid of people with MS.
This knowledge prompted investigators led by Dr Carlos Lopez-Otin of the Hospital Central de Asturias, Oviedo in Spain to look at the protein in mice, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry online.
They developed mutant mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an animal model for MS, deficient in the gene for collagenase-2. They found these mice had fewer invading cells in the brain, fewer damaged nerves, and a general improvement in their clinical profile.
Next they gave a drug that blocked the protein’s activity to diseased mice. This also reduced MS symptom severity.
Following both genetic and biochemical research, the authors conclude: "This enzyme may be a novel therapeutic target in human neuro-inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis."