In multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, brain shrinkage is associated with hemoglobin leakage from the damaged red blood cells. The researchers found that treatments that less down hemoglobin levels actually slowed down MS disease progression. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries iron and oxygen around the body.The study involved 140 participants with advanced multiple sclerosis. Lead author of the study Prof. Charles Bangham explained, “These are exciting but early results. If further studies confirm them, they may suggest new avenues of treatment, and hopefully more options to offer patients in the future.”
Nearly 65 percent of MS patients go on to develop a more serious form of the disease, which is known as secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. This phase usually onsets 15 years after initial diagnosis and is characterized by progressively worsening symptoms with no periods of corrections.This secondary phase also leads to the death of brain cells. The brain shrinks on average 0.3 percent annually in progressive MS patients.Previous studies develop high levels of iron around blood vessels in the brain – which is toxic and hence may be the reason for the death of brain cells in MS. In the new study, the researchers suggest that hemoglobin may be responsible for high iron levels in the brain.