What if we used cold to fight multiple sclerosis?

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  • More research will be needed before the clinical application of this finding can be considered.
  • When placed in a cold environment, mice with multiple sclerosis had fewer symptoms.

In France, 110,000 people are affected by multiple sclerosis according to National Institute of Health and Medical Research Follow Favorite, making it the leading cause of severe non-traumatic disability in young adults. Currently, there is no cure for this disease but only to relieve patients and improve their quality of life. According to a new study published in the journal cell metabolismCold could be a new treatment option to reduce symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis: the immune system attacks its own cells

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system and leads to a malfunction of the immune system. This no longer protects the patient from external aggressions but rather turns against their own cells, attacking the myelin that surrounds and protects nerve fibers. This phenomenon causes damage that prevents nerve fibers from properly transmitting messages sent by the brain to the rest of the body, and vice versa. Patients with this disease can have various problems such as motor, sensory, cognitive, etc. Almost in the long term, these disorders can progress to irreversible disability.

Work was performed on mice placed in a 10° environment

To carry out their work, the scientists started from the “life history theory” invented in the 1950s, which posits that an organism focuses on growth and reproduction only when the environment is favorable to it. Otherwise, it gives up its basic functions because all of its energy resources are dedicated to defending against external attacks.

In multiple sclerosis, the immune system is faulty. So the researchers conducted experiments on mice to see if exposure to cold – an unfavorable environment – caused their bodies to divert energy resources from the immune system towards conserving body heat. In other words, if the immune system stops attacking its own cells to focus on maintaining body temperature. To do this, they gradually placed mice with a human multiple sclerosis model in a cold environment, at 10 degrees.

The symptoms of the disease improved thanks to the cold

After a few days, we observed a significant improvement in the clinical severity of the disease, as well as the marked extent of demyelination in the central nervous system.Doron Merkler, one of the study’s authors, explains. The animals had no difficulty in maintaining their body temperature at a normal level, but individually, symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders decreased significantly from an inability to walk on their hind legs to mild paralysis of the tail.So the results are convincing: when exposed to low temperatures, the immune system no longer attacks the myelin that surrounds and protects nerve fibers, and thus patients have fewer symptoms of the disease. Indeed, since the organism is obliged to increase its own metabolism to maintain its heat, He no longer has resources for his other actions, especially those that are harmful in the context of multiple sclerosis.So the cold causes the harmful immune cells to drop and improves the symptoms of the disease.

However, the authors note that exposure to cold increases susceptibility to some infections. Before considering the clinical application of this discovery, they will continue their research. The ultimate goal is for patients to benefit from the benefits of the cold without its harmful effects.

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