Vitamin C Might Help Treat Multiple Sclerosis

Scientists have discovered that vitamin C promotes the repair of the myelin sheath surrounding neurons, making it a potential treatment for multiple sclerosis.

AsianScientist (Mar. 29, 2018) – A research group in China has demonstrated that vitamin C can enhance the formation of myelin sheaths and may alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. They published their findings in GLIA.

Myelin sheaths—fatty layers that surround neurons—play important roles in the normal functioning of the central nervous system . In diseases such as multiple sclerosis, the myelin sheaths are damaged by immune cells and the myelin regeneration process is blocked.

Currently available treatments for multiple sclerosis all aim to modulate the immune responses. While this approach is effective in reducing the relapse rate and formation of new lesions, they have limited effects in preventing the progression of disability. Thus, promoting the recovery of myelin sheaths and neuronal functions are the goals of multiple sclerosis therapy.

In this study, a research group led by Professor Xie Xin at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that vitamin C greatly enhances the differentiation of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPC) to oligodendrocytes (OL). OLs form myelin sheaths by wrapping around neurons in the CNS.

The researchers established a high-throughput screening system to identify small molecule compounds that may promote OPC to OL differentiation. They found that vitamin C facilitates the formation of myelin sheaths in a co-culture of OPCs and neurons. Furthermore, vitamin C promoted the repair of myelin sheaths in vivo, as well as provided significant therapeutic effect in an animal model of multiple sclerosis.

Interestingly, vitamin C’s function in promoting OPC differentiation is not related to its antioxidant activity. Rather, the researchers suggested that an intracellular mechanism might be involved.

Taking into account the fact the vitamin C has been safely used as a dietary supplement for many years, the researchers think that vitamin C can also be safely applied as an alternative medicine for central nervous system demyelinating diseases.

The article can be found at: Guo et al. (2018) Vitamin C Promotes Oligodendrocytes Generation and Remyelination.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Shutterstock.
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