Mayo Clinic researchers have identified critical properties of neuromyelitis optica, a potentially debilitating neurological disease. The findings could help physicians better care for the thousands of patients around the world with NMO. The paper was published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
NMO is a disease of the central nervous system that damages the optic nerves and spinal cord, causing eye pain, vision loss, weakness, numbness and, sometimes, paralysis of the arms and legs.
NMO often was misdiagnosed as a severe variant of multiple sclerosis until a team led by Vanda A. Lennon, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic research immunologist, isolated and identified an antibody unique to NMO, revolutionizing the diagnosis of NMO.
Dr. Lennon’s initial research determined that the NMO antibody targets astrocytes, which are common in the brain and perform many functions, including providing nutrients to nerve tissue and support for the repair and scarring process in the brain and spinal cord. Specifically, the antibody affects the water channels that surround the astrocytes.
The new findings advance the understanding of the basic mechanisms of NMO, critical to the ultimate development of treatment or even a cure.
In this video, Dr. Lennon discusses the finding of the paper.