I was surfing the web and came accross this article. Thought it may be of interest to all of you...
Ancient Virus Protein Linked to Multiple Sclerosis
By Karla Gale
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Syncytin, a virus protein that has been around for millions of years, may play a role in the nerve damage that occurs with multiple sclerosis (MS), scientists report in the journal Nature Neuroscience. This finding could lead to new treatments for the devastating neurologic disease.
Syncytin "can activate immune mechanisms, which can ultimately damage cells that make myelin," an important nerve covering that gradually disappears in patients with MS, senior author Dr. Christopher Power, at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, told Reuters Health.
Power and his international research team found that syncytin is present in the brain tissue of patients with MS at levels about three times higher than in healthy brain tissue. They also found that syncytin stimulates the production of various inflammatory chemicals.
By introducing the gene for syncytin into mice, the researchers were able to create animals that had symptoms commonly seen in humans with MS, such as weakness and unsteady gait. The symptoms and tissue changes were reversed when the mice were treated with a chemical called ferulic acid.
Power noted that ferulic acid was well tolerated by the animals, and said he hopes to further explore its potential as a therapeutic agent in patients with MS.
Other drugs currently being tested may be found to have an effect on syncytin, Dr. Mark P. Mattson and Dr. Dennis D. Taub of the National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program, Baltimore, remark in a related editorial.
But it will be important to know what other tissues are affected by syncytin, they add, because critical functions could be compromised by treatments aimed at syncytin.
SOURCE: Nature Neuroscience, 2004.