Researchers publish results settling multiple sclerosis debate

February 23, 2011

In an effort to develop therapeutic remedies for multiple sclerosis, scientists debate two possible interventional approaches - but they're on opposite sides of the spectrum. Researchers at Wayne State University's School of Medicine, however, have reached a definitive conclusion as to which approach is correct, putting an end to a long-disputed issue.

Harley Tse, Ph.D., associate professor of immunology and microbiology at WSU's School of Medicine and resident of West Bloomfield, Mich., whose study was published in the January 2011 edition of the , found that targeting of the immune system known as T cells is the effective approach to block the disease in an animal model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

Normally, T cells are programmed to attack foreign substances in the body. However, sometimes these T cells attack an essential component of the , the protective layer of known as the myelin sheath. This causes the symptoms associated with MS, which include tremors, fatigue, memory loss and other problems.

The debate was centered on treatment of the most common form of the disease, the remitting-relapse form, in which attack episodes alternate with periods of remission. Roughly 85 percent of the 2.5 million sufferers of MS worldwide exhibit the remitting-relapse pattern. "Scientists have been trying to understand how and why the relapse cycles occur and to design therapy to delay disease relapses and hence prolong the remission period," said Tse.

Scientists came up with two conflicting conjectures. Some found that the T cells involved in each relapse were different and were directed against different myelin proteins. As such, these T cells are not suitable targets for therapy. Others, however, could not find support for this in their studies. "It was important to resolve this issue because the two models suggested totally different therapeutic approaches," Tse said.

Studying the possibilities, Tse constructed a special mouse strain to tag the disease-causing T cells and observed that when these marked T cells were eliminated after a relapse, subsequent relapses did not occur.

"Elimination of marked donor T cells could be done after development of the second or the third relapse episodes and each time, no further relapses occurred," said Tse. "This work is significant because for the first time we are able to definitively establish a cause-and-effect relationship linking the marked T cells to the development of relapses and show unambiguously that it was the same T cells that mediated relapsing cycles. "

"Targeting such disease-causing in MS is definitely a valid therapeutic approach that should be pursued," Tse added.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Neuroscience research provides evidence the brain is strobing, not constant

November 17, 2017
It's not just our eyes that play tricks on us, but our ears. That's the finding of a landmark Australian-Italian collaboration that provides new evidence that oscillations, or 'strobes', are a general feature of human perception.

Brain activity buffers against worsening anxiety

November 17, 2017
Boosting activity in brain areas related to thinking and problem-solving may also buffer against worsening anxiety, suggests a new study by Duke University researchers.

Investigating patterns of degeneration in Alzheimer's disease

November 17, 2017
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is known to cause memory loss and cognitive decline, but other functions of the brain can remain intact. The reasons cells in some brain regions degenerate while others are protected is largely unknown. ...

Study may point to new treatment approach for ASD

November 17, 2017
Using sophisticated genome mining and gene manipulation techniques, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have solved a mystery that could lead to a new treatment approach for autism spectrum disorder ...

Neuroscientists find chronic stress skews decisions toward higher-risk options

November 16, 2017
Making decisions is not always easy, especially when choosing between two options that have both positive and negative elements, such as deciding between a job with a high salary but long hours, and a lower-paying job that ...

Paraplegic rats walk and regain feeling after stem cell treatment

November 16, 2017
Engineered tissue containing human stem cells has allowed paraplegic rats to walk independently and regain sensory perception. The implanted rats also show some degree of healing in their spinal cords. The research, published ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.