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Study finds molecule that may inhibit MS progression


Scientists say they have a found molecule that binds to the CXCR4 receptor, inhibiting the progression of multiple sclerosis. The discovery is an important step towards the development of new therapeutic treatments for the disease.

Researchers, led by Melinda S. Hanes of the University of California, San Diego, identified molecules that strongly inhibit the action of the two ‘chemokine receptors’ – CXCR4 and ACKR3 – which work together to regulate cell migration, important in multiple sclerosis. They used ‘phage display’ to generate thousands of modified molecules of natural human proteins which were then screened for their ability to bind to the target receptors. The study’s authors identified 12 molecules of modified human protein, which act against the receptors – four of them very strongly. One of the new molecules, the variant which bound most strongly to the CXCR4 receptor, inhibited multiple sclerosis in a laboratory study.

According to Shaun McColl, director of the Centre for Molecular Pathology at the University of Adelaide, “Scientists working in this area are searching for precise molecular targets to inhibit or at least control disease like cancer and multiple sclerosis without harm to other parts of the body. The next stage of this research will be to use molecular modelling to work out exactly where these molecules are binding to the receptors and how they are disrupting their function so they can be further modified for even greater specificity.”

The findings were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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