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MS and Myelin

Surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers of the central nervous system is a fatty tissue called myelin, which helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses.

Myelin not only protects nerve fibers, but makes their job possible. When myelin or the nerve fiber is destroyed or damaged, the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain is disrupted. This produces the various symptoms of MS.   Cross section of nerve fibers

Read more about myelin and MS

Myelin Damage: Lesions
In MS, myelin is lost in multiple areas, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis. These damaged areas are also known as plaques or lesions.

See how lesions appear on an MRI of the brain

The MS Lesion Project
Lesion patterns may provide more information about differences in disease between individuals, which may someday enable doctors to make more accurate diagnoses, prognoses, and treatment decisions.


Gender Differences in Myelin; New Findings on Myelin-Targeted Antibodies

Myelin Repair
The body repairs some MS lesions naturally, but the repair is by no means complete. Of the many avenues of MS research, repair of damage to the central nervous system is one of the most exciting. It could mean the restoration of function lost to the disease.
Nervous System Repair and Protection Initiative
The largest awards ever made for research aimed at protecting and reversing neurological damage and restoring function in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are going to four teams in the U.S. and Europe, as part of the National MS Society's Promise: 2010 Campaign.
Researchers Find Extensive Repair of Myelin in Brains of Some People with MS
New Progress in Understanding Myelin Repair

Collaborative MS Research Center Awards

Eleven collaborative research centers have been established by the National MS Society to speed the search for the cause and cure of multiple sclerosis. Several centers are focusing on myelin repair:

Jeffery D. Kocsis, PhD (Yale University), whose team is testing ways, such as cell transplantation, to protect and repair central nervous system tissue.

Moses Rodriguez, MD (Mayo Clinic), whose multidisciplinary group is screening small molecules for their potential to stimulate myelin repair.

Charles D. Stiles, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), who is leading an investigation into possible strategies for repairing the damage to nerve-insulating myelin that occurs in MS.

Bruce D. Trapp, PhD (Cleveland Clinic) and colleagues, who attempting to stimulate cells that can generate new myelin damaged by MS.


This technology is able to detect lesions in different parts of the central nervous system and differentiate old lesions from those that are new or active.

Diagnosis of
Demyelinating Disease

MS is the most common demyelinating disease. It affects only the myelin of the central nervous system —the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord.

More on Diagnosis of MS


Exploring myelin and glia (the cells in the nervous system that make myelin) is a cornerstone of MS research. The Society is funding 72 projects in glial cell/myelin biology, for a total multi-year commitment of some $23 million.
Read about newly funded projects in myelin biology in New Research (PDF)

Current Funded Research
These are just a sampling of projects focused on myelin and central nervous system repair in MS

“Thromboxane A2 modulation of oligodendrocyte development and myelin synthesis” (Guy C. LeBreton, PhD)
Exploring a natural molecule that may be involved in stimulating the growth and repair of nerve-insulating myelin

"Therapeutic potential of PPAR delta agonists in demyelinating disease" (Douglas Feinstein, PhD)
Determining whether a natural brain chemical can stop MS-like disease and stimulate myelin repair by replacement cells.
"Genetic mechanisms of oligodendrocyte development" (Q. Richard Lu, PhD)
Understanding the mechanisms involved in the development of cells that make nerve-insulating myelin, to facilitate therapeutic strategies that will stimulate myelin repair in MS.
"Neurotrophins and their receptors: modulators of myelination" (Jonah R. Chan, PhD)
Identifying signals from nerve fibers that help control the production of nerve-insulating myelin, for clues to stimulating myelin repair in MS.
More Current Funded Research
Last updated December 1, 2006