What causes myelin damage in multiple sclerosis (MS)?

In multiple sclerosis (MS), the blood-brain barrier breaks down, allowing T-cells that react to myelin proteins to pass through the walls of the blood vessels and enter the brain. Once inside the brain, they attack and destroy the myelin.

In people with MS, the oligodendrocyte cells fail to produce the protective myelin sheath, even if they are in direct contact with a bare axon. Doctors believe this is because the signal that stimulates these cells to produce myelin is missing.

During an MS attack, T-cells produce toxic chemicals that overload and destroy the oligodendrocytes that are trying to repair the damaged myelin. Actively blocking the receptors for the myelin debris on the T-cells reduces the body's inflammatory immune response, creating a more favorable environment for the stimulation of myelin repair.

Demyelinated nerves cause symptoms such as vision changes, numbness, tingling and pain. People with relapsing­-remitting MS (RRMS) experience acute episodes of demyelination followed by periods of remission, during which their nervous system can find ways to compensate for some of the damage that has been done. This is what accounts for the waxing and waning of symptoms in people with RRMS. However, even though symptoms may improve or disappear altogether, the nerves are still damaged and have to work overtime to compensate.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.