Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may soon benefit from the discovery of an enzyme that seems to play a central role in the tissue damage associated with the disease. In May Brain, Isobel Scarisbrook and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, US, have found dramatically increased levels of the degradative enzyme myelencephalon-specific protease (MSP) in demyelinated brain tissue (Brain 2002, 125:1283-1296).

After the discovery of MSP in 1997, Scarisbrook et al. worked on tissue from mice and humans with MS and discovered that the concentration of the enzyme is substantially increased in inflammatory cells in actively demyelinating human MS lesions.

MSP has many functions, among which is the facilitation of the entry of inflammatory cells into the brain. When functioning normally, MSP also contributes to the proper regulation of oligodendroglia cells, which form part of the myelin sheath. But, in large concentrations, the enzyme is...

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