A Viral Role in Multiple Sclerosis 



Important new paper linking HERVs with MS



Human Endogenous Retroviruses in Multiple Sclerosis: Potential for Novel Neuro-Pharmacological Research


 F. P. Ryan*

 *Department of Animal and Plant Science, Sheffield University


Abstract: There is growing evidence that the env genes of two or more human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) of the W family are contributing to the inflammatory processes, and thus to the pathogenesis, of multiple sclerosis (MS). Increasing understanding of the human endogenous retroviral locus, ERVWE1, and the putative multiple sclerosis associated retrovirus, or MSRV, and in particular of the HERV-W env sequences associated with these, offers the potential of new lines of pharmacological research that might assist diagnosis, prognosis and therapy of multiple sclerosis.

 Key Words: Multiple Sclerosis, autoimmunity, MS, human endogenous retroviruses, MS-associated retrovirus, MSRV, HERV-W, acute relapsing MS, secondary-progressive MS, human genome, genetic symbiogenesis.


The full paper is published in Current Neuropharmacology, 2011, 9, 360-369



On the left we see a striking red stain within the brain cells known as astrocytes within the acute inflammation of MS.  The red stain is the expression of a viral gene, known as a HERV-W env.  This appears to cause the astrocyte to make a poison that kills the cells on the right, the oligodendrocyes, that lay down the protective sheath around the nerves called myelin.  This appears to be playing an important part in the inflammation that causes multiple sclerosis.  More work needs to be done on this important observation, which may, in time, help to explain the pathology of the disease and help with treatment and management.

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 Astrocyte picture through kind courtesy of Giuseppe Mameli