Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease involving immunological mechanisms that lead to demyelination of the central nervous system. Two papers in June Nature Medicine show that ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) and leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) are two cytokines that have protective effects in a murine model of MS.

Ralf Linker and colleagues from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Austria, worked with CNTF-deficient and wild-type mice and found that CNTF is a major protective factor in demyelinating CNS disease. The vacuolar dystrophy of myelin and axonal damage was more severe and recovery was poor in CNTF-deficient mice. These effects could be prevented by treatment with an antiserum against tumor necrosis factor-α, suggesting that endogenous CNTF may counterbalance TNF-α (Nat Med 2002, 8:620-624).

In the second paper, Helmut Butzkueven and colleagues at the University of Melbourne, Australia, observed that administration of LIF could reverse the loss of oligodendrocytes normally...

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