DNA sequences obtained from a handful of patients with multiple sclerosis at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center have revealed the existence of an "immune exchange" that allows the disease-causing cells to move in and out of the brain.
The cells in question, obtained from spinal fluid and blood samples, are called B cells, which normally help to clear foreign infections from the body but sometimes react strongly with the body itself. One of the current theories of multiple sclerosis, which strikes hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions more worldwide, holds that the disease manifests when self-reactive B cells in the brain become activated and cause inflammation there.
The apparent exchange of the cells between the brain and the blood may be a key to unlocking better treatments and diagnostics, because the activated B cells causing problems in the brain may be accessible when they move from the brain to the periphery.
"The hope is that if we can identify culprit B cells, using precise tools, we will be able to better diagnose multiple sclerosis and monitor disease activity. In addition, in ways that may have to be tailored for each patient, this may also allow us to develop therapies that directly target disease-causing B cells," said UCSF neurologist Hans Christian von Büdingen, MD, who led the research.
Described this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the work is the latest from the UCSF Multiple Sclerosis Center, part of the UCSF Department of Neurology and one of the leading programs in multiple sclerosis research and patient care worldwide.
Since 2008, a UCSF team led by the chair of the Department of Neurology, Stephen Hauser, MD, has completed two clinical trials that showed, in essence, that blocking B cells may stop the attacks, or flare-ups, that occur in people with multiple sclerosis. These trials used Rituximab and Ocrelizumab, both of which target a molecule called CD20 found on the surface of B cells.
The new work suggests that targeting B cells could be extended into a precision strategy that would specifically tailor treatments to the exact identity of the B cells at work in any one patient.
Background on B cells and Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a common, chronic disease affecting some 350,000 Americans whose immune systems periodically attack the myelin sheaths that insulates nerve fibers in the brains and spinal cord. Damage to the sheaths can short-circuit signals traveling along the nerve fibers, disrupting the normal flow of communication from the brain and causing a range of symptoms.
The disease is about three times more prevalent among women than men, and for reasons scientists do not understand, the number of women who have the disease has been increasing in proportion to men. Decades ago, there were about as many men as women with multiple sclerosis.
That disparity is not the only mystery surrounding multiple sclerosis. The severity of the disease can vary wildly, from people who have mild disease, rarely having symptoms, to people who suffer significant deficits for long periods of time, sometimes progressively, with weakness, sensory disturbance, fatigue, visual impairments and loss of coordination. In addition, scientists do not understand what triggers MS attacks, though researchers at UCSF and elsewhere are actively investigating a number of possible genetic and environmental triggers, including low vitamin D levels.
There also is a need to find better ways to diagnose, monitor and track the disease – a need that may be helped by the new discovery.
"We don't have any specific diagnostic tool at this point – no biomarker that we can look for to say, 'this is multiple sclerosis'," von Büdingen said.
University of California - San Francisco: http://www.ucsf.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Algorithms developed by Google designed to encode thoughts, could lead to computers with ‘common sense’ within a decade, says leading AI scientist
New fossil evidence suggests dogs emerged as a separate species from wolves far earlier than scientists previously believed
Researchers discover the 425-million-year-old remains of a new species of parasite - still clamped to the host animal it invaded.
It should be raptor egg blue instead of robin egg blue. Some modern birds lay colourful eggs, but now we know it's a trick their dinosaur ancestors used too
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists on Thursday unveiled the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken of the world's ocean plankton, the tiny organisms that serve as food for marine creatures such as the blue whale, but also provide half the oxygen we breathe.
Scientists on Thursday unveiled the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken of the world's ocean plankton, the tiny organisms that serve as food for marine creatures such as the blue whale, but also provide half the oxygen we breathe.
Researchers say they're excited about a new brain implant that allowed a paralyzed patient to control a robotic arm with his mind. Erik Sorto is the first in the world to have this new neural prosthetic device. Elaine Quijano reports.
Genetically, at least, not that much has changed in the billion years since you two last shared a relative. Roughly half the 500 genes yeast need for life are interchangeable with the human versions.
What controls aging? Biochemist Cynthia Kenyon has found a genetic mutation that can more than double the lifespan of a tiny worm, which points to how we might one day significantly extend human life.
Java sparrows amp up their tunes with acoustic beak taps synchronized with chirps