2/2. Breakthrough in MS research as scientists discover possible cause?

In this video George interviews Professor David Baker who is a Professor Of Neuroimmunology. The interview was filmed by Shift.ms

Video transcript

So David, we’ve seen in the media this week that the cause of MS has been found. Is this correct?

In a word, no. The work was actually not even about a cause, it was really a consequence and I don’t really know how the two have been merged together. So I think it’s, again, the problem of media reporting that somebody’s tried to make a mountain out of something that really was… it wasn’t even a molehill, really.

Okay. That’s a real shame for many people who built up a lot of hope about understanding MS from that article. What can we as people with MS, as the wider MS community, what can we take from this story?

Okay, from the story, I think the story is really about how damage may occur in multiple sclerosis and what this work sheds light on is a way that that may occur. And so it’s part of the jigsaw, and so we’re on that case already and there are many different avenues where we can exploit that knowledge. But actually, to be kind of more upbeat, in a sense we still don’t necessarily have to know what the cause is to be able to get the cure, so it’s not all a negative thing, because I think we could still be positive because we do know, you know, some parts of the pathway and this story tells us a little bit more about pathway and we can interfere in that pathway hopefully to switch off things or to, you know, quell the damage that’s occurring.

So that’s what the plus point is and if you want to kind of know what this story says, is really what we know in MS is that damage can occur because nerves have to work harder because they lose that myelin sheath around which insulates and makes the nerve impulses travel faster. What this study showed is that the energy of a cell is made in a powerhouse called a mitochondria, and it basically showed that the mitochondria links with the part of the protein making machinery and it allowed a toxin to get into the mitochondria that potentially damaged the mitochondria so that they don’t work as well and so they can’t cope and they may be damaged. So that’s kind of the science behind it. The way I kind of put it in layman’s terms is, imagine you’re playing Cluedo and you know that one of the characters is the cause, you know there’s a murder weapon and you know there’s a room, well the room here is the MS lesion, this work is probably not the murder weapon, but it’s probably like saying the barrel of the gun. So it’s a conduit to allowing what is the problem to occur, so that’s how I would see it. So what they’re showing is really the barrel of the gun, not the bullet. You know, we have an idea what the bullet is so it means we can muzzle it and stop it.

Fantastic. And is this news, when this research was released in January, was this news to you, did this help inform your research that you’re doing and your colleagues are doing?

Well, it will do because it’s all about understanding the pathways. and we’re actually working on the case. Those mitochondria, we’re actually looking at a way of kind of plugging the problem with them. But this is just another way that you could approach that. So I think there are a lot of people working in that area, and as I say, it’s a bit more of a jigsaw. It may allow people to develop new treatments, but it may not. But we’re actually on that case already, I think. So it’s welcome to know more, but it’s just, as I say, part of the jigsaw, so not earth shattering, in my opinion. You know, we’ve been thinking about that for a long time.

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