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Researchers Report Success Promoting Myelin Repair in Mice with MS-like Disease

October 5, 2007

Researchers report that blocking or removing a myelin molecule called “LINGO-1”promotes myelin repair and enhances nerve fiber integrity in the spinal cords of mice with the MS-like disease EAE. Myelin isthe insulating sheath that encases nerve fibers and is a main target of the destructive immune attack in multiple sclerosis.Sha Mi, PhD (Biogen Idec, Inc., Cambridge, MA) and colleagues report their findings inNature Medicine(Advance Online Publication, September 30, 2007).The study was funded by Biogen Idec Inc.

The team had reported the discovery of LINGO-1 in 2004 (Nature Neuroscience, March 2004). LINGO-1 is part of a complex of molecules within myelin called the Nogo receptor complex that has been shown to inhibit the regeneration of nerve fibers. When LINGO-1 was disabled within this complex, remyelination occurred and the health of nerve fibers improved, leading the team to realize that LINGO-1 plays a crucial role.

In the current study, Dr. Mi and colleagues first induced EAE in mice with and without the gene that instructs production of LINGO-1. Both groups developed EAE symptoms, but they were significantly milder in mice lacking LINGO-1. Studies of tissue samples showed significant amounts of myelin repair in these mice as well. The team then administered a LINGO-1 antibody capable of blocking its activity to mice that already had symptoms of EAE and found that treatment stabilized disease progression after two weeks. Tissue analysis showed thatblocking LINGO-1 reduced nerve fiber damage and enhanced myelin repair in the spinal cord, compared with untreated mice.

These pre-clinical results indicate that blocking LINGO-1 may have therapeutic potential for enhancing tissue repair in MS, but further research is necessary to determine safety and effectiveness. According to a company press release dated September 30, 2007. Biogen Idec Inc. plans to continue to pursue further research on this new approach for treating MS.

-- Research and Clinical Programs Department

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