Molecule Linked to Neurological Dysfunctions Identified

A team of researchers has pinpointed a small molecule responsible for nerve cell damage and other symptoms tied to neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS).

A team of researchers has pinpointed a small molecule responsible for nerve cell damage and other symptoms tied to neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS).

In a study published in the June 2014 issue of The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, investigators at The Open University (OU) in the United Kingdom and colleagues from Sheffield, London, and Amsterdam highlighted the behavior of MicroRNA-155 (miR-155) and its activity during inflammation.

According to a statement released by the OU, inflammation in the molecule creates gaps in tissue cells, leading to toxins entering the brain from the bloodstream. In comparison, unaffected individuals’ cells create a barrier that prevents molecules from invading the brain.

“We have identified miR-155 as a critical miRNA in neuroinflammation at the blood-brain barrier (BBB),” the authors noted. “miR-155 is expressed at the neurovascular unit of individuals with MS and of mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.”

The statement also noted that cells that line blood vessels and control molecules’ brain access when inflamed become “leaky” due to neurological immunity. This inflammation, the study noted, has been observed with several conditions such as MS, HIV, dementia, and bacterial infections of the blood.

The investigators said that while BBB dysfunction was recognized in MS and stroke patients, molecular activity behind the dysfunction is still a mystery.

"This research has helped us to gain a better understanding of how toxins and other blood-borne molecules are leaked into the brain in inflammatory conditions,” lead author Ignacio Romero, MD, senior lecturer in Cellular Neuroscience in Open University’s Department of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences, said in a statement.“This is crucial, not only for helping to explain the molecular underpinnings of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and MS, but also for opening up new possibilities for developing treatments to reduce the flow of these unwanted molecules to the brain and also for delivering life-saving drugs.”