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Study demonstrates exercise fosters repair in mice with MS-like lesions

  • National News Release

November 9, 2018 – A recent study led by researchers at the University of Calgary Drs. Samuel K. Jensen and V. Wee Yong shows that exercise can enhance the rate of repair or remyelination following the induction of multiple sclerosis (MS)-like lesions in mice.

In MS, the loss of myelin, the protective covering over nerve fibers, prevents accurate transmission of signals from the brain to the body. The need for identifying mechanisms that are involved in repairing this damage plays an important role in understanding MS and the progression of the disease.

The work done in this study highlights that exercise following the appearance of MS-like lesions in mice enhances the number of oligodendrocytes (cells that make and maintain myelin) and rate of remyelination. It also shows that combining exercise with the use of clemastine fumarate, an experimental drug currently in phase II clinical trial for remyelination in MS, further enhances remyelination.

“We have known for a while that exercise is beneficial for people with MS. However, we did not know whether exercise possessed any disease-modifying effects or just improved general health and fitness. Our work demonstrates that, at least in mice, exercise can promote remyelination and lays the groundwork for future trials in humans,” says Dr. Jensen, MD, PhD student at UCalgary.

“We hope that our novel insight that exercise promotes brain repair will help motivate MS patients to stay engaged in exercise programs,” says Dr. Yong, PhD, professor and member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine.

“A study like this is a fundamental building block to answer key questions in MS research,” says Dr. Karen Lee, vice president, research, MS Society of Canada. “The MS Society of Canada is proud to be a part of a project that looks to repair the damage that MS causes, and leads the way for more research into this debilitating disease.”

As one of the prime symptoms of MS, fatigue has often been a barrier for people living with MS to take part in physical activity beyond their regular day-to-day routine. More recently, the benefits of exercise have been studied and evidence has shown that staying active is associated with reduced relapse rate, brain lesion volume, and disability progression in MS.

The focus of the study involved taking mice with MS-like lesions, and providing them access to an open running wheel, meaning they were allowed to run, or a locked running wheel, meaning the wheel was present but it would not move.

Additional research is needed to investigate the type, duration, and intensity of physical exercise that is optimal to promote repair of myelin.

The study, Multimodal Enhancement of Remyelination by Exercise with a Pivotal Role for Oligodendroglial PGC1α, was funded by the MS Society of Canada, Alberta Innovates: Health Solutions, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research. It was recently published in Cell Reports.

For more information on the study and its results, visit our MS Update.

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