Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2013

Progressive disability in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) is largely caused by a slowly progressive degeneration of nerve fibers in brain and spinal cord. The MS research team of the Center for Neurosciences ( VUB describes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (18 March 2013) a new disease mechanism in MS. They found that astrocytes (support cells of the nervous system) produce a substance (endothelin-1) which makes blood vessels to contract, leading to a decreased blood flow in the brain. Reduced blood flow in the brains of animals leads to a degeneration of nerve fibers. Cerebral blood flow in persons with MS could be corrected by the administration of an endothelin-1 antagonist, which opens the door to new types of treatment for the disease.