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Researchers discover link between copper and demyelination in model of MS

30 January 2024

  • The study looked at how copper in the brain and spinal cord might be linked to damage of myelin – the protective coating of nerves seen in MS – a process known as demyelination.
  • Researchers tested a treatment by giving a special kind of copper to a laboratory model, discovering that it boosted copper levels in the brain, especially in the parts where it dissolves easily. They found this significantly reduced the damage in those areas.
  • The study not only helps us understand how demyelination occurs but also gives hope for new and better treatments to help people with MS in the future.

Copper and demyelination

In this study, published in Metallomics, researchers funded by MS Australia investigated the role of copper in the demyelination process, where the protective coating around nerves are damaged in MS.

They used cuprizone, a compound known as a chelating agent, that grabs onto copper and mimics MS-like lesions, causing demyelination in a laboratory model.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers thoroughly investigated copper levels during a 40-day cuprizone treatment period in the laboratory model.

Employing advanced technologies in mass spectrometry, they precisely separated copper into soluble and insoluble fractions across various brain regions, with a specific emphasis on the large white matter tract that connects the two hemispheres of the brain known as the corpus callosum.

Demyelination in the corpus callosum is a prominent feature of MS and may account for impaired performance on complex tasks.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found demyelination within the corpus callosum was closely associated with a notable reduction in soluble copper, while insoluble copper remained unaffected.

To explore potential treatments, the researchers gave the model a copper compound that could get into the brain by crossing what is known as the blood-brain barrier.

This treatment increased copper levels, especially the soluble fraction, and significantly reduced the damage caused by cuprizone in the corpus callosum.

What does this mean for people with MS?

This study suggests that having insoluble copper in the brain and spinal cord might contribute to the damage observed in demyelinating conditions like MS. On the other hand, more soluble copper may be beneficial.

While further research is needed, this study supports the idea that delivering a copper compound directly to the brain could help preserve myelin in the brain and spinal cord in people with MS.

These findings bring hope for gaining deeper insights into how diseases like MS function, revealing new possibilities for effective treatment approaches in the future.

By understanding more about the role of copper in demyelination, we come closer to improving the health and well-being of individuals with MS.

copper and MS

Research Report – Associate Professor Peter Crouch and Dr James Hilton. How copper in the body relates to progressive MS

Associate Professor Peter Crouch and Dr James Hilton at The...

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Researchers discover link between copper and demyelination in model of MS