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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My, Oh, My! Myelin!

A Brief Introduction to Myelin

Multiple sclerosis (MS) attacks the fatty protective coating of nerve fibers in the central nervous system called myelin. Even people without MS experience myelin decay as young as 39 years old. The first sign of myelin breaking down is a loss of speed of reflexes, for most people it’s not noticeable until they reach middle age or beyond. The next evidence of myelin breakdown is that balance can falter, shaking can begin, and coordination and memory begin to work more poorly.

Myelin plays a crucial role in the ability to function and remember information, and myelin is attacked in more diseases than just multiple sclerosis. For example, myelin is a key element of Guillan-Barre syndrome when a minor infection triggers the body attacking itself, causing muscle weakness and paralysis, and also in transverse myelitis, when an inflammation of the spinal cord damages myelin there. There are several organizations founded to fund myelin research, looking for a cure for demyelinating disease. The Myelin Repair Foundation encourages collaboration between scientists in separate labs. The goal of the group is to discover how to repair myelin, often through drugs that can result in quicker, more effective treatment of multiple sclerosis in order to end the suffering of the disease. The work may lead to therapies that will aid victims of other diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. The Foundation hopes to launch clinical trials in 2014, and to provide a therapeutic approach to repairing myelin by 2019.

Another such organization is The Myelin Project. Founded in 1989, the organization funds research grants. In 2001, the Project funded the transplantation of myelin-forming cells into the brain of someone with multiple sclerosis. The procedure did not trigger myelin production or symptomatic change.

How do you help your body fight myelin decay? There are a lot of supplements that could help. One thing emphasized on some sites is that without sufficient vitamin C, your body can’t move nutrients to the brain. If you do decide to take a vitamin C supplement, make sure it is buffered, so it doesn’t make you more acidic. We’ll talk about more things that can aid in growing new myelin in the next blog instalment. 

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