All within this blog is limited, and through my own lens of understanding, as a patient with MS. I try to summarize the research of Dr. Bergels and his team, but I mostly likely fall short. I apologize for any mistakes and thank you for your patience with them. However, I provide lots of links to more information that is clickable throughout the post, and opens in a new tap.
If you are unfamiliar with his work, Dr. Brandon Beaber is a MS Specialist who endeavors to bring MS Research to a conversational level, and share it with MS Patients, clinicians, and anyone who is interested in his YouTube Vlog. Dr. Brandon Beaber had me at hello, with the first video I saw on his channel where he discusses the side effects he observed in himself, while taking four different MS medications. Any neurologist who takes disease modifying medications he prescribes, in an effort to better understand the side effects his patients experience, is really, really cool.
He’s got me again in his discussion the work of Professor Dwight E. Bergles Ph.D work that earned him the 2020 Baranik Prize for for $100,000. He interviews Dr. Bergles, a neuroscientist with John Hopkin’s University, about the work of himself, and his team that lead them to win the Baranik Prize.
Dr. Bergles and his team, first encoded the mice’s DNA in a way that made their nerves appear fluorescent underneath a specially designed electron microscope. The team performed surgery on the mice, removing the top portion of the mouse’s skull and affixed a window, cemented to their skull. This allowed the mice, to live, a normal lab mouse’s life, while researches could peer into their brains. The researchers then administered cuprizone, a toxin that chelates copper, or strips the copper away from the electron transport chain, or nerve impulses. The result is oxydative stress, which produces demyelination similar to what happens during an MS attack.
If you are a medical research nerd that doesn’t understand most of what you read, like me, you may notice that this model of mimicking MS is different than the EAE, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, that researchers have typically used in animal models of MS, to induce a reaction in mice and rats that is similar to MS. For more information on this model of MS research in mice, check out this article in Science Direct.
Back to the lab mice and their demyelinating nerve impulses. The nerve damage they sustain, strips not only the myelin but the oligodendrocytes and their progenitor cells, the OPCs. OPCs can build new myelin sheath, but something going on in MS, and the damage to the cells is preventing the OPCs from making the oligodendrocytes to repair the myelin, and this is happening more extensively in the deeper layers of grey matter in the brain. Dr. Bergles is heartened by his research and that though there is bad news, that our grey matter cells cannot repair our brain on the same level that takes place in white matter, they have developed a model to observe this, and test existing and new drugs, potentially including drugs already approved by the FDA to speed up the rate of MS remyelination research, and hopefully getting actual working remyelination drugs to patients sooner, than later. Thank you, because we needed this help yesterday, but it’s heartening to think that the tomorrow in our future, isn’t a decade away, but perhaps closer.
This marks the end of my report on the science discussed in the video, now I’m delving deeper, into my own thoughts. This isn’t anything scientific, it’s just my own relations to my MS, my disease, my psyche, and my trauma.
In July Dawn and Daana of Myelin and Melanin, hosted a live chat on MS Healthline on trauma and PTSD in Multiple sclerosis. I am an ambassador for the app, and I was so excited to be part of this special live chat, to learn from them, other MS Healthline members, and share my own experiences. I was so flattered when Daana mentioned part of my story, on the podcast episode, of my sledding accident that led to my diagnosis, and the way I felt drawn to also manage the emotional reactions of my loved ones. In that way, when I was 20, I kind of sidestepped dealing with the trauma, by focusing on the reactions of others to it. I wanted to make it all ok again. I told my cousin, when he said it sucks I have MS, but you deal with your diabetes, managing several shots a day. Our grandmother did the same. At least I only had to perform one self injection a day. My attitude had been, to lock it away, and deal with it later. I saw family around me living with chronic conditions, and in a way I felt almost that I had been initiated to follow in the ranks. I pushed past the drama, but I sat with it in my quiet moments, and in my writing.
PTSD, the surface evidence of the deep down trauma, has a name. However, the trauma Dr. Bergels speaks of gives me the mental image of those instances of relapse and trauma, chiseled into the stone of plaques surrounding my myelin. My story of my traumas- my night sledding accident preserved, the numbness on my left side preserved, the emotional fights in relationships of love, preserved. Are my oligodendrocytes locked in those memories?
I hope to give my OPCs some love and encouragement, if there is any way to reach that scared entity that can’t see past the plagues. It makes me feel the deepest amount of gratitude to them. I don’t want those parts of me to live alone. I want to remind them of the growth that all our scars led towards. How we kept going, despite the numbness constantly shifting and spreading, despite the sore and squeezing ribs, despite the fatigue that takes over at a cellular level, despite squeezing thigh muscles that are locked a flex, all these things have led us to where we are today. To that effort I tapped the thoughts into my brain, with one of my favorite brain tapping videos, and expressed to them that they aren’t alone in this.
I really think we need to allow ourselves the utmost grace. Our disease truly is invisible, whether we walk without assistance or need a wheelchair. We are fighting this fight, in a cellular battlefield. Our evolving trauma, and overcoming it is not just exterior, it seems, it’s cellular.
I’m about to make a jump again in my experience, and my reaction to this monumental research of Dr. Bergels and his team. I am really drawn to world religions and the animal model, the mouse, offering us the opportunity to see into their brains, reminds me that the mouse is also the vehicle of the Hindu God, Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.
Hinduism became a big part of my life, as I married into the faith. I continue to be drawn to the stories. I went to India twice to seek them out, and once more with my husband’s parents and good friends, masi and khaka for wedding clothing. I grew up in a different faith, but I’m so grateful for all I have learned, through my relationships with faithful members of the Hindu Faith.
Dr. Bergels and his team has given a window, and a view into the brain of the mice, that has never before been seen. It seems like reaching through the veil, to reach the boundless wisdom contained in the signals of the mouse’s brain showing us what our own looks like.
I am humbled, feeling a boon bestowed by Lord Ghanesa, a Hindu deity, and his vehicle, Dinka the mouse. Gods of Hinduism are often pictured with a vehicle, that helps him with his mission in the world. For Ghanesa, it’s the mouse. He can send his mouse in the cracks of the world, to remove obstacles in the paths of his devotees. Now it seems, the brain of his vehicle, the mouse, is helping us understand the damage done to our own brains. Doctors, are removing the veil, and understanding, really understanding how myelin damage disrupts the brain’s signals.
One of the most gratifying pieces of information in the interview, to me, was that what is really scientifically, right before our eyes is trauma happening within our own bodies, and we are being both physically and emotionally impacted at the same time. The depression, and mental health issues, aren’t only a reaction to something happening outside of ourselves, it’s also happening inside.
An incredible amount of understanding will come these monumental triumphs of Dr. Bergles and his team. Dr. Bergles talks about this speeding up testing for remyelination properties of already FDA approved drugs. So to my Oligodendrocytes and yours, to our OPCs, our myelin, and our properties damaged by trauma. So much help is coming. To my fellow warriors fighting the battle in the bodies, our homes that are being attacked from the inside, I know the stakes are so high, everyday can seem like a new threat could fall or the old ones will just worsen. Yet, this is an incredible step forward, so we won’t have to wait so long for something to help our cells that are still experiencing the pain, and the loss. Thank you Dr. Beaber, thank you Dr. Bergles, thank you to your team and everyone that made the microscopes and performed delicate brain surgery on mice. Thank you God, thank you Ganesha, thank you mice, thank you, thank you, thank you.
May God Be with you till we meet again.