Discovery of immune cells that protect against multiple sclerosis offers hope for new treatment

August 16, 2012

In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing movement problems, muscle weakness and loss of vision. Immune cells called dendritic cells, which were previously thought to contribute to the onset and development of multiple sclerosis, actually protect against the disease in a mouse model, according to a study published by Cell Press in the August issue of the journal Immunity. These new insights change our fundamental understanding of the origins of multiple sclerosis and could lead to the development of more effective treatments for the disease.

"By transfusing dendritic cells into the blood, it may be possible to reduce autoimmunity," says senior study author Ari Waisman of University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. "Beyond multiple sclerosis, I can easily imagine that this approach could be applied to other , such as and psoriasis."

In an animal model of multiple sclerosis known as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), called trigger the disease after being activated by other immune cells called antigen-presenting cells (APCs). Dendritic cells are APCs capable of activating T cells, but it was not known whether dendritic cells are the APCs that induce EAE.

In the new study, Waisman and his team used genetic methods to deplete dendritic cells in mice. Unexpectedly, these mice were still susceptible to EAE and developed worse autoimmune responses and disease clinical scores, suggesting that dendritic cells are not required to induce EAE and other APCs stimulate T cells to trigger the disease. The researchers also found that dendritic cells reduce the responsiveness of T cells and lower susceptibility to EAE by increasing the expression of PD-1 receptors on T cells.

"Removing dendritic cells tips the balance toward T cell-mediated autoimmunity," says study author Nir Yogev of University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. "Our findings suggest that dendritic cells keep immunity under check, so transferring dendritic cells to patients with multiple sclerosis could cure defects in T cells and serve as an effective intervention for the disease."

Explore further: Skin sentry cells promote distinct immune responses

More information: Yogev et al.: "Dendritic Cells Ameliorate Autoimmunity in the CNS by Controlling the Homeostasis of PD-1 Receptor+ Regulatory T Cells."
dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2012.05.025

Related Stories

Skin sentry cells promote distinct immune responses

July 21, 2011
A new study reveals that just as different soldiers in the field have different jobs, subsets of a type of immune cell that polices the barriers of the body can promote unique and opposite immune responses against the same ...

How excess alcohol depresses immune function

August 16, 2011
Alcoholism suppresses the immune system, resulting in a high risk of serious, and even life-threatening infections. A new study shows that this effect stems largely from alcohol’s toxicity to immune system cells called ...

Recommended for you

Immunotherapy drug nearly eliminates severe acute graft-versus-host disease

December 9, 2017
Results from a phase 2 clinical trial, presented by Seattle Children's Research Institute at the 59th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting, show that the drug Abatacept (Orencia) nearly eliminated life-threatening ...

Location, location, location: Immunization delivery site matters

December 1, 2017
In vaccination, a certain subpopulation of dendritic cells is vital to triggering the body's adaptive immune system, report researchers at The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), Yale University and Astra-Zeneca.

An anti-aging protein could be targeted to rejuvenate immune cells

November 30, 2017
Anti-aging proteins have long been shown to protect against age-related diseases, such as cancer, neurodegeneration, and cardiovascular disease. A study by researchers at the Gladstone Institutes now reveals that one such ...

Scientists find key to miscarriages in blood clotting disorder

November 28, 2017
Monash University researchers have potentially shed light on why women with the rare autoimmune disorder Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) are prone to successive pregnancy losses.

How do cells release IL-1? After three decades, now we know

November 28, 2017
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have identified, for the first time, the molecule that enables immune cells to release interleukin-1 (IL-1), a key part of our innate immune response to infections. Findings were ...

Why do more women have asthma than men? Blame hormones

November 28, 2017
Women are twice as likely as men to have asthma, and this gender difference may be caused by the effects of sex hormones on lung cells. Researchers at Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins found that testosterone hindered ...

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.