Researchers identify a promising target for multiple sclerosis treatments

March 19, 2013

A team of basic and clinical scientists led by the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre's (CRCHUM) Dr. Nathalie Arbour has opened the door to significantly improved treatments for the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In a study selected as among the top 10% most interesting articles published in the Journal of Immunology, the team identifies the elevated presence in MS patients of a type of white blood cell (CD4 T cell) that expresses NKG2C, a highly-toxic molecule harmful to brain tissues.

In close collaboration with clinicians at the University of Montreal Hospital and the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Dr. Arbour's team studied tissues from healthy subjects and . This approach enabled the team to uncover a novel mechanism by which expressing NKG2C can directly target having a specific corresponding ligand found only in MS patients. "These results are very encouraging," says Arbour, "since they provide us with a much more refined picture of how the brain cells of MS patients are targeted by the immune system and provide us with a clearer understanding of how to go about blocking their action."

There is no known cure for this auto-immune disease of the central nervous system. While there are a number of approved MS therapies targeting molecules expressed by immune cells, they are sometimes too broad in their application. They can suppress the efficiency of the immune system but also open the way for serious infections in some MS patients such as progressive , a serious viral disease that can cause death in people with severe immune deficiency, such as MS patients on immunosuppressive medication.

"Our research has made an important step in getting around this problem. Because NKG2C is specifically expressed by a subset of CD4 T cells only found in MS patients, targeting this receptor would not affect large populations of , but only those which produce the symptoms characteristic of this debilitating disease," explains Arbour.

For patients this discovery could translate into improved treatments aimed at decreasing the progression of the disease and its symptoms, without the risk of potentially lethal infections and therefore improving their quality of life.

Explore further: Cancer drug a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis

Related Stories

Cancer drug a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis

February 21, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A drug that is currently used for cancer can relieve and slow down the progression of the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS) in rats, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE. The discovery, ...

Receptor may hold key to multiple sclerosis treatment

June 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A receptor recently discovered to control the movement of immune cells across central nervous system barriers (including the blood-brain barrier) may hold the key to treating multiple sclerosis (MS), a ...

A breakthrough in pinpointing protective mechanisms in Multiple Sclerosis

December 2, 2011
In an article published in the prestigious journal Science, a team of researchers led by Dr Alexander Prat and postgraduate fellow Jorge Alvarez at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) sheds light ...

Multiple sclerosis patients have lower risk of cancer: research

June 21, 2012
Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients appear to have a lower cancer risk, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health.

Multiple sclerosis: Damaged myelin not the trigger

February 27, 2012
Damaged myelin in the brain and spinal cord does not cause the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS), neuroimmunologists from the University of Zurich have now demonstrated in collaboration with researchers from Berlin, ...

Recommended for you

Does your child really have a food allergy?

July 24, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many people misunderstand what food allergies are, and even doctors can be confused about how to best diagnose them, suggests a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Genetic immune deficiency could hold key to severe childhood infections

July 18, 2017
A gene mutation making young children extremely vulnerable to common viruses may represent a new type of immunodeficiency, according to a University of Queensland researcher.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?

July 18, 2017
What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma in adults? This can be tricky because asthma can stem from several causes and treatment often depends on what is triggering the asthma.

Large multi-ethnic study identifies many new genetic markers for lupus

July 17, 2017
Scientists from an international consortium have identified a large number of new genetic markers that predispose individuals to lupus.

Study finds molecular explanation for struggles of obese asthmatics

July 17, 2017
A large, bouquet-shaped molecule called surfactant protein A, or SP-A, may explain why obese asthma patients have harder-to-treat symptoms than their lean and overweight counterparts, according to a new study led by scientists ...

Team identifies potential cause for lupus

July 14, 2017
Leading rheumatologist and Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Professor Betty Diamond, MD, may have identified a protein as a cause for the adverse reaction of the immune system in patients suffering from lupus. A better ...

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.