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Replacing fatty acids may fight MS

Patients lack key lipids that fend off inflammation and nerve damage

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3:57pm, June 6, 2012

By delving into the components of protective nerve coatings that get damaged in multiple sclerosis, scientists have identified a handful of lipid molecules that appear to be attacked by an immune system run amok.

Bolstering the supply of these lipids might help preserve these nerve coatings and, in the process, knock back the inflammation that contributes to their destruction, researchers report in the June 6 Science Translational Medicine.

In MS patients, rogue antibodies assault myelin, the fatty sheath that insulates nerves and facilitates signaling. Inflammation exacerbates the attack on myelin and the cells that make it. But other details of MS, including the roles of myelin lipids, have been less clearly understood.

“I think this is a very good study,” says Francisco Quintana, an immunologist at Harvard Medical School. “Overall, there are not many papers on lipids in MS. Technically, they are challenging and require a lot of expertise.”

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