Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world, according to the MS Society of Canada, but some new research involving University of Saskatchewan researchers could give us a better understanding of the disease.
Dr. Graham George, the Canada Research Chair in X-ray absorption spectroscopy at the University of Saskatchewan, said they are teaming up with the Cameco MS Neuroscience Research Centre and the University of Alberta, with funding from a new federal program to help foster this cross-disciplinary approach.
“What’s been intriguing for a long time is this thing called the cuprizone model of MS. Now cuprizone is an interesting compound, it’s an old compound, it’s been around for a long time, and it’s a colorimetric indicator for copper,” said George.
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George said it’s a powder blue solution that turns “so incredibly blue” when added to copper that it actually looks jet black to the human eye.
He said when cuprizone is fed to an animal, it develops symptoms of a demyelinating disease such as MS, and when the animal is no longer fed cuprizone, it recovers from those symptoms.
“One of the hallmark features (of MS) is in the central nervous system there’s an immune reaction against your own myelin, and the myelin is lost. And (myelin is) the insulating sheaths, it’s like insulation around a wire, around the fibres in your central nervous system.”
George said their research will be looking at whether metals are involved.
“There are thousands of scientific publications on cuprizone and MS, but there’s no evidence one way or the other whether there’s a metal involved or not, and people assume very widely there is, and the only reason they assume it really is the name of the compound and its known affinity for copper.”
He says the researchers are examining the brains of animals through tissue samples to see if there’s a change in the metals, adding that they don’t know what they’ll find.
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“If we see what we call dysregulation of essential metals, that will give us clues about how we may be able to treat certain subtypes of MS.”
George said it’s too early to get excited about anything yet, but added that they are very optimistic about this research.
He said this is a very personal project for him as well.
“MS is a disease that’s important to me. My mother was diagnosed many years ago when she was a young woman. She lived into her 80s, but she lived with the disease for many years, and it became a regular thing in our household.
“So it’s something I would like to make a contribution to.”
George said he expects they’ll have something tangible within a year, possibly in 2022.
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