Proteomics identifies protein changes in multiple sclerosis and CIS

September 24, 2013 James D. Bowen, M.D.

A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE found differences in protein levels of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) among people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and clinically isolated syndrome (CIS).

Using the relatively new field of proteomics, researchers were able to identify each individual protein in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)—86 total—and compares their levels among people with relapsing MS, clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) and healthy individuals. People with RRMS had different levels of 20 proteins compared to people with CIS. Seventy five percent of those proteins related to neurons (rather than myelin). Changes were particularly notable for proteins related to neurons in participants with CIS.

This study is one of many MS studies coming from the relatively new field of proteomics. This field uses powerful new techniques that are able to identify individual proteins in blood or CSF. The techniques are able identify extremely low levels of proteins. Some of these proteins are purposefully secreted into the CSF, but others leak into the CSF due to damage to cells. Because individual proteins are identified, researchers can tell quite a bit about the source of the protein.

The study was able to find proteins that leaked into the CSF due to damage from both neurons and myelin. It is interesting that more of the proteins seemed to come from neuronal damage in CIS patients rather than myelin damage. Myelin damage proteins were found in both CIS and relapsing MS patients, but the proteins from neurons were the most notable in the CIS cases. This suggests that damage to neurons is an important component of MS, even in the earliest stages of the disease.

Since the earliest descriptions of MS in the late 1800s, it has been recognized that neurons and their axons are affected by the disease. This current study emphasizes the importance of neurons in the disease, as well as the role they may play. Studying the neurons in MS is a growing priority because they may be responsible for many of the progressive symptoms of MS. Further understanding of the role that neurons play will be important in eventually understanding the cause of the disease.

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