Multiple Sclerosis may be caused by the epsilon toxin a new laboratory test confirms. Researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College conducted tests on mice and found that the toxin crossed the blood-brain barrier and killed cells that produce myelin, the same damage that occurs in Multiple Sclerosis. Jennifer Linden, who led the study, said that these findings are important because if the toxin is confirmed to cause this disease, then vaccines or antibodies can be created to stop or prevent the disease.
Multiple Sclerosis is an inflammatory disease wherein the body attacks itself and in turn destroys healthy tissues in the central nervous system. The disease slowly interrupts the blood-brain barrier and destroys myelin, which is the protein that protects the nerves in the spinal cord, optic nerve and brain and stops the electrical signals that the myelin sends to different parts of the body from transmitting properly. When a person has the disease they can suffer from various symptoms including those ranging from mild numbness in the legs and arms, to blindness and paralysis.
The epsilon toxin that may cause Multiple Sclerosis stems from the bacterium C. perfringens that is found in soil and meat that is not cooked properly. The toxin was found in a 21-year-old woman who has the disease in October, 2013. When this toxin was tested on mice by Dr. Linden and her colleagues, she found that the toxin not only affected cells in the brain but also the central nervous system, which happens in individuals who have this disorder. Dr. Linden explains that her group originally thought that the epsilon toxin would only affect the brain’s endothelium cells and oligodendrocytes but they noticed that it also attached to and killed meningeal cells. Linden also explained that this excited the group because it might explain why the meninges gets inflamed and why Multiple Sclerosis patients develop subpial cortical lesions.
Dr. Linden also studied 37 local food samples and found that 13.5 percent of them had C. perfringens and 2.7 had the epsilon toxin gene. She explains that if a second study confirms these results, then a vaccine could be created that removes the ability for the epsilon toxin to trigger the disorder could stop the progression of the disease or prevent it all together. She stresses that the epsilon toxin is not necessarily transmitted by food and that it is not know how people transmit the toxin. Linden says that the toxin being transmitted through food is only an idea and that it is always a good idea to practice good hygiene and prepare and cook food properly. She says that it is too early to tell what exactly causes this toxin.
This new study demonstrates that Multiple Sclerosis may be caused by the epsilon toxin. Dr. Linden and her colleagues tested the toxin on mice and found that it affected cells in the brain and nervous system. Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, the head of Biomedical Research at the Multiple Sclerosis Society commented on the study by saying that when possible causes or triggers of the disease are discovered, this can cause researchers to create better treatments or even, one day prevent the condition. She continues to say that the research is interesting but the results needs to be confirmed in a larger study that proves the toxin really triggers the disease. Dr. Linden’s second test will hopefully bring that validity. People suffering from Multiple Sclerosis may have a brighter future ahead if antibiotics or a vaccine are created.
By Jordan Bonte