Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, researchers have successfully used folded DNA molecules to stimulate regeneration and repair nerve coatings in mice that mimic multiple sclerosis (MS). The paper, published June 27 in the journal PLos ONE, suggests there is a possibility of new therapies for MS patients; however, this approach must be further validated in mice before proceeding to human clinical trials.
“The problem has been to find a way to encourage the nervous system to regenerate its own myelin (the coating on the nerves) so nerve cells can recover from an MS attack," said L. James Maher III, PhD, Mayo Clinic biochemist and senior author on the paper. “We show here that these small molecules, called aptamers, can stimulate repair in the mice we are studying."
Researchers focused on monoclonal antibodies in mice to stimulate myelin repair and determined that the aptamers are not only effective, but they are easy and cheap to synthesize and are not likely to cause an immune response. The monoclonal antibodies used in earlier research are large and complex but resulted in the remyelination of central nervous system lesions in the mice. The aptamers used in this study are less than one-tenth the size of antibodies and are single-strands of DNA containing only 40 nucleotide units.