Researchers Discover Unique Immune System Cells With Unique Properties in Multiple Sclerosis

According to a story from BioPortfolio, a team of scientists associated with the University of Zurich and others have made a remarkable discovery that could reveal new information about the disease mechanism of multiple sclerosis, a progressive, neurological illness that causes nerve damage and disability. We have known that multiple sclerosis involves an autoimmune mechanism in which certain immune system cells attack neurons and prevent their ability from communicating with each other normally; this new discovery will help us understand that nature of these cells.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease which is characterized by damage to the myelin sheath, a fatty, insulating, protective covering that surrounds nerve cells and allows them to communicate effectively. Although a precise cause has not been determined, multiple sclerosis is considered an autoimmune disease, in which a certain trigger, such as an infection, may cause the immune system to mistakenly attack healthy tissue. Smoking and certain genetic variants are also considered risk factors for the disease. Symptoms include blurred vision, double vision, blindness in one eye, numbness, abnormal sensations, pain, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, difficulty speaking and swallowing, mood instability, depression, loss of coordination, and fatigue. There are a number of treatments available for the disease, but no cure. Life expectancy for patients is slightly reduced. To learn more about multiple sclerosis, click here.

The T Helper Cell

The researchers have relied on highly advanced technology in order to analyze these cells, including high dimensional cytometry, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. The researchers found that the aberrant cells were a type of white blood cell called T helper cells. They display distinctive characteristics, such as elevated levels of the membrane protein VLA4 and the CXCR4 chemokine receptor. In addition, the T helpers cells produce GM-CSF, a cytokine that is closely linked to neuroinflammation. These characteristics give these cells both the capability to trigger an inflammatory response and the ability to act on the nervous system.

These cells were also associated with the cerebrospinal fluid and the brain lesions that appear in multiple sclerosis patients. The authors concluded that while it appears that these T helper cells likely play a direct role in the disease mechanism, more research is necessary to confirm the association.

Check out the original study in the scientific journal Nature Medicine.

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