Researchers find reduced levels of an important neurotransmitter in MS

Feb 10, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have shown for the first time that damage to a particular area of the brain and a consequent reduction in noradrenaline are associated with multiple sclerosis.

The study is available online in the journal .

The pathological processes in MS are not well understood, but an important contributor to its progression is the infiltration of involved in immune defense through the blood-brain barrier.

Douglas Feinstein, research professor in at the UIC College of Medicine, and his colleagues previously showed that the neurotransmitter noradrenaline plays an important role as an immunosuppressant in the brain, preventing and stress to neurons. Noradrenaline is also known to help to preserve the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

Because the major source of noradrenaline is neurons in an area of the brain called the locus coeruleus, the UIC researchers hypothesized that damage to the LC was responsible for lowered levels of noradrenaline in the brains of MS patients.

"There’s a lot of evidence of damage to the LC in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, but this is the first time that it has been demonstrated that there is stress involved to the neurons in the LC of MS patients, and that there is a reduction in brain noradrenaline levels," said Paul Polak, research specialist in the health sciences in anesthesiology and first author on the paper.

For the last 15 years, Feinstein and his colleagues have been studying the importance of noradrenaline to inflammatory processes in the brain.

"We have all the models for studying this problem, so in some ways it was a small step to look at this question in MS," said Polak.

The researchers found that LC damage and reduced levels of noradrenaline occur in a mouse model of MS and that similar changes could be found in the brains of MS patients.

The findings suggest that LC damage, accompanied by reduction in noradrenaline levels in the brain, may be a common feature of neurologic diseases, Polak said.

"There are a number of FDA-approved drugs that have been shown to raise levels of noradrenaline in the brain, and we believe that this type of therapeutic intervention could benefit patients with MS and other neurodegenerative diseases, and should be investigated," he said.

Explore further: Altered pain processing in patients with cognitive impairment

Related Stories

Taste test may identify best drugs for depression

Dec 06, 2006

New research has shown that it might be possible to use taste as an indicator as to whether someone is depressed, and as a way of determining which is the most suitable drug to treat their depression.

Inhibiting blood to save the brain

Mar 22, 2007

A fibrous protein called fibrinogen, found in circulating blood and important in blood clotting, can promote multiple sclerosis (MS) when it leaks from the blood into the brain, triggering inflammation that leads to MS-related ...

Recommended for you

Altered pain processing in patients with cognitive impairment

May 29, 2015

People with dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment (CI) have altered responses to pain, with many conditions associated with increased pain sensitivity, concludes a research review in Pain, the official publication of the ...

Changing activity in the ageing brain

May 29, 2015

Normal ageing affects our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks. But exactly how our brain functions change during this process is largely unknown. Now, researchers in Malaysia have demonstrated that ...

Networking neurons thrive in 3-D human 'organoid'

May 29, 2015

A patient tormented by suicidal thoughts gives his psychiatrist a few strands of his hair. She derives stem cells from them to grow budding brain tissue harboring the secrets of his unique illness in a petri ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.