A recently-reported study, conducted by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published in the US National Institute of Health’s Research Matters, has demonstrated that people infected with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) were 32 times as likely to develop Multiple Sclerosis as uninfected people.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. In people with MS, the body’s immune system attacks the insulating layer (Myelin) that surrounds nerve cells, often killing the cells.
While EBV, a form of herpes virus, infects about 95% of people with little or no symptoms, it is believed that the infection acts as a trigger for MS where the virus remains dormant within cells before being reactivated in some people.
In patients with MS, the layer of fatty insulation (myelin) that surrounds and protects neurons is attacked by the patient’s immune system, disrupting the neuron’s signalling ability and ultimately killing the neuron. The researchers postulate that the EBV causes the MS patient’s immune system to attack the myelin, believing that it is fighting the EBV.
Soft X-ray Tomography (SXT), as described in the paper referenced below, can be used to image a neuron’s myelinated axons, enabling visualization of indentations along the length of the myelinated axons and the measurement of the myelin thickness. It is a very suitable imaging modality for imaging neurons and for measuring the myelin damage that is believed to be triggered by the EBV.
Casper Hempel, Sergey Kapishnikov et.al
National Institutes of Health (NIH)