Past research has shown that rogue Th17 cells could help spur the manifestation of autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS). But why do these cells go wrong and how could potential treatments impact this? According to Medical XPress, a research team from the Australian National University discovered that neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) help these rogue cells grow and proliferate. As a result, researchers now believe that inhibiting some of the harmful or negative effects of NETs could potentially treat multiple sclerosis.
To learn more about the study findings, take a look at the research published in Nature Communications.
NETs and Th17 Cells
To begin, let’s break down what NETs are. An unrelated article in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology explains that NETs, produced by a type of white blood cell called a neutrophil, are:
Web-like structures composed of DNA filaments coated with histones and granule proteins. NETs were discovered over a decade ago as part of our first line of host defense against invading microorganisms.
In short, NETs play a role in immune response. However, researchers recently determined that NETs may also have negative effects, causing additional health issues in some cases. For multiple sclerosis, the researchers found that NETs enhanced and manipulated Th17 cells. Normally, like NETs, Th17 cells play a role in immune health by preventing infections. But if the Th17 cells are too active, severe inflammation occurs. Ultimately, this inflammation can drive disease progression.
Some researchers hypothesize that a histone-neutralizing drug for sepsis could be beneficial for those with multiple sclerosis. However, more research is needed. But the promising thing is that, moving forward, researchers and scientists may now be able to use NETs and Th17 cells as potential therapeutic targets.
About Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease affecting the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). This disease occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath, or the protective covering of nerve cells. As the myelin sheath is damaged, the nerves become exposed. Ultimately, this inhibits communication between the nerves, brain, and body. Multiple sclerosis usually manifests in middle age and affects females 2x more than males. The condition may be progressive or relapsing and remitting, the latter of which experiences symptomatic episodes as well as periods of remission. Symptoms include:
- Partial or complete vision loss (often with eye pain)
- Blurred or double vision
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Lhermitte sign (electric shock sensations occurring while moving the neck)
- Numbness or weakness in the limbs
- Slurred speech
- Problems with sexual, bladder, or bowel function