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Enzyme may hold key to new MS treatments


University of Alberta scientists examined an enzyme called granzyme B as a possible therapeutic target for reducing inflammation that doesn’t significantly suppress the immune system. The discovery could lead to new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

In the study, researchers found that by suppressing granzyme B through a recently discovered inhibitor called serpina3n, they could significantly reduce the progression of MS symptoms in both human cells and pre-clinical models. According to Fabrizio Giuliani, senior author of the study and an associate professor in the neurology division of the University of Alberta's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, by targeting granzyme B, the body's inflammatory response is minimally affected. He said that by interfering with the early stages of inflammation to the brain in MS patients, progression of the disease can be slowed.

"In our models, we haven't seen that the disease disappears. The disease is still there, the inflammation is still there, but there's not as much damage in the nerve cells that would induce a permanent disability," says Giuliani.

Results of mouse model studies sometimes do not translate to humans and may be years away from being a marketable treatment. However, coauthor Chris Bleackley, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry's Department of Biochemistry, and Giuliani are already looking to next steps in their research. They are currently preparing experiments using human analogues of serpina3n that will further examine the effect of inhibiting granzyme B in patients with multiple sclerosis.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

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