Latest Issue of Science News


News

Good Poison? Carbon monoxide may stifle multiple sclerosis

Small amounts of carbon monoxide might alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a study in mice suggests. The finding may offer a treatment for MS, which strikes when a person's immune system damages the fatty sheaths that protect nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.

At first glance, the approach seems fraught with problems. Carbon monoxide inhalation can be lethal. But the body makes the molecule naturally in small amounts when an enzyme called heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1) breaks down a portion of the blood protein hemoglobin.

That enzyme might act as a brake to prevent inflammation from getting out of hand, says immunologist Miguel P. Soares of the Gulbenkian Institute of Science in Oeiras, Portugal. Previous studies showed that HO-1 is activated in the presence of inflammatory immune system cells and that carbon monoxide slows inflammation.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

X
This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.