Novel microscope helps study neuromyelitis optica

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Novel microscope helps study neuromyelitis optica

Postby whbio » Apr 27 2017 3:51 pm

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a rare autoimmune disease in which immune system cells and antibodies attack the spinal cord and the optic nerves. This relapsing-remitting disease can eventually lead to paralysis and blindness. Early diagnosis of NMO is critical. The majority of NMO patients have anti-AQP4 antibody, or called the NMO antibody, in their blood. So this antibody is considered a biomarker for NMO. Aquaporins (AQPs) are proteins that transport water across cell membranes. Blood tests to detect NMO-IgG are used to help doctors diagnose the disease.

Now a study of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus sheds light on the mechanism of NMO. The researchers used a custom STED microscope that can show living cell structures in great detail to study anti-AQP4 antibody. With the help of the STED microscope, they observed clusters of antibodies on astrocytes, the brain cell target of the autoimmune response in NMO. Lead researcher Professor Jeffrey Bennett said that "This could potentially correspond with their ability to damage the cells." The study appears in Biophysical Journal.

The approach allowed the researchers to infer the size of individual AQP4-IgG binding eventsn. Based on these findings, the researchers conducted experiments to model the assembly of larger AQP4-IgG complexes on M23-AQP4 arrays. Collectively, the study may accelerate the development of treatments for NMO.

There are about a quarter-million patients with NMO worldwide. Until now, the disease has no specifically approved medications. Patients are often treated with intravenous high-dose corticosteroids, and experience Plasma Exchange (PLEX). Mycophenolate mofetil, rituximab, and azathioprine are used for maintenance therapy. More specific and more efficacious therapies are in need. (Cusabio offers various antibodies.
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