A new study identifies a molecule that may be critical to the repair of white matter, the fatty tissue wrapped around parts of brain cells that helps speed up communication. Damage to white matter is associated with several conditions, including multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, and can occur in the brains of preterm babies. New findings suggest that the molecule triggers a pathway that is normally used by the immune system to prevent excessive damage but may contribute to chronic white matter injury by completely blocking repair operations. The study, published in the May issue of Journal of Clinical Investigation, was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.
“This study uncovers a new player in white matter disease and identifies a potential drug target,” said Jim Koenig, Ph.D., program director at NINDS. “It also describes a unique situation in which the brain tries to take over immune system functions, with devastating results.”