Good Poison? Carbon monoxide may stifle multiple sclerosis | Science News


Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


Good Poison? Carbon monoxide may stifle multiple sclerosis

1:49pm, January 24, 2007

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.

In patients with MS, inflammatory cells strip away myelin sheaths, and the subsequent nerve damage results in fatigue, p

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content