In demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis, damage to the myelin sheath that covers nerve axons is the main cause of neurological disabilities. The protein IL-33 is made by the body in response to viruses, and the synthetic compound poly-IC – which mimics virus RNA – is known to induce IL-33 production.
Reporting March 29 in the journal PLOS ONE, they show that addition of poly-IC or IL-33 to cultured cells induces the production of myelin and promotes maturation of myelin progenitor cells. Treatment of animals with poly-IC following the chemical injury of myelin-forming cells resulted in rapid remyelination of the injured area.
These findings suggest that poly-IC and IL-33 are likely to be attractive therapeutic agents for use in human demyelinating disease.