U of A researchers see promise in enzyme treatment for multiple sclerosis

EDMONTON- It’s a potential new pathway for the treatment of multiple sclerosis or MS, which helps reduce inflammation in the brain, a key factor in the muscle disability associated with the illness.

According to researchers at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, the treatment involves an enzyme which acts as a target for reducing inflammation without significantly suppressing the immune system response. That could possibly mean fewer side effects from treatments using this technique in the future.

The enzyme, called granzyme B, acts as a weapon in cytotoxic cells, damaging nerve cells. The research shows that suppressing granzyme B results in significantly reduced progression of MS symptoms in both human cells and pre-clinical models.

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“We can interfere with some of the weapons these cytotoxic cells use to induce damage to the nerve cells in the brain, but without disrupting the other positive functions that these cells have,” explains Fabrizio Giuliani, senior author of the study and an associate professor in the neurology division of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

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The researcher goes on to say that targeting granzyme B in the early stages helps reduce inflammation and slows the progression of the disease.

“The results of this study are very exciting and quite unexpected,” says study co-author Chris Bleackley, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry’s Department of Biochemistry.

“They are a great example of how basic research can have surprising and beneficial applications in the treatment of human diseases.”

Granzyme B was previously discovered at the U of A, by Bleackley. Study funding was provided by the MS Society of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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