Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that often affects young adults. The disease generally starts between 20 and 40 years old. With more than 80 000 patients in France and 350 000 in Europe, it is the major cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults.
Chronic disease, multiple sclerosis is variable from one individual to another in its clinical expression (motor disorders, coordination, visual impairs …), in its evolutionary modality (evolution by relapsing or progressive evolution) and its gravity.
The reasons for this disease are unknown and probably involve many factors, including genetic susceptibility or an autoimmune reaction to external aggression still unidentified.
The disease is currently processed essentially by anti-inflammatory that are part of the problem and in particular have no benefit for the late face of disease. This progressive so-called phase led to the death of neurons and a huge disability of patients. This neuronal death is not due to the inflammation itself but to the loss of the myelin sheath that protects the extensions of neurons (axons) of external stresses. In multiple sclerosis, this protective sleeve being destroyed, the axons are more fragile and die eventually.
The answer of Institut du Cerveau – ICM:
The focus of research led at the Institut du Cerveau – ICM about multiple sclerosis is to find ways to repair the myelin sheath and promote the formation of the sheath of myelin on injured axons in order to offer a new protection against external stress. The first step in this work is to understand how myelin degenerates and how we might stimulate oligodendrocytes . Thanks to cellular innovative tools, the team of Catherine Lubetzki and Anne Baron managed to identify new molecules that occur naturally in the body that can stimulate the reconstruction of the myelin sheath.
A second approach led to the Institut du Cerveau – ICM, and coordinated by Anne Baron and Brahim Naït Oumesnar, is to assess the potential of stem cells. These cells who have a great potential for producing myelin, could be transplanted to patients, providing them with new cells, able to help to rebuild the myelin sheath.
Finally, to better support patients and enable them to access the most effective treatment, the research team of Bertrand Fontaine identifies specific profiles that allow individuals to know in advance whether a patient with multiple sclerosis will respond correctly to a given treatment or whether it is more appropriate to give him an alternative treatment. This approach is what is known as a personalized medicine approach, and needs to identify “biomarkers”. These biomarkers once identified will tailor treatment according to the profile of the patient, to predict disease progression and to view its progress by markers used in neuroimaging.
The work on multiple sclerosis in Institut du Cerveau – ICM is favored by the close interaction between researchers and doctors who can then make hypotheses and test them quickly in order to evaluate their benefits for patients. Thus Dr. Bruno Stankoff, in the team of Catherine Lubetzki, was able to develop and validate new imaging markers to visualize the plaques of the disease by positrons emission in tomography (visualization of metabolic activities of cells in 3 dimensions).