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Multiple Sclerosis Could Be Treated by Blocking Specific Helper T Cells in the Central Nervous System

It might be possible to stop or slow the autoimmune progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) by deleting a receptor in the central nervous system, according to a study published today in the journal Science Immunology.

Using mouse models, researchers reported that deleting a receptor that selectively targets a specific type of T cells stopped them from entering the central nervous system while allowing other T cells to penetrate and protect the body from pathogens.

T cells are a type of white blood cells found in the immune system and work to fight infections, such as virusesbacterial infectionsfungi, and parasites.

In the past, scientists prevented the T cells from entering the central nervous system. However, this process also lowered immunity and left the patient open to infections.

In this study, the researchers said they found a way to prevent specific T cells from entering. They did this by deleting the receptor needed for cell migration. By doing so, they said they stopped autoimmune activity.

“The receptors are attached to the T-cells (TH17 cells) and can help the cell travel into the [central nervous system],” said Dr. Cole Harrington, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center who was not involved in the study. “When the scientists remove or make the receptor (integrin a3) inactive, the cell cannot enter the [central nervous system].”

“After reading the study, I do believe this is something that can work to help people with MS,” Harrington told Medical News Today. “This is very early in the process, but I found this very interesting,” they continued.

After examining the mouse models that consisted of mice with a MS-like disease called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitisTrusted Source, researchers then completed in-vitro studies in laboratories and reported they could block the receptor and impair cell migration in human cells.

They believe this will help develop therapies for MS and improve outcomes for people with the condition.

In-vitro studies involve taking cells outside of their normal environment – in this case, the body. Typically, these studies are completed in test tubes, Petri dishes, flasks, and microtiter plates and are often referred to as test-tube experiments.

“The next step is to assess the safety of using integrin a 3 blockade as a therapeutic strategy in preclinical studies,” said Maria Ciofani, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Immunobiology in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the Center for Advanced Genomic Technologies at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina​.

“Our work used gene deletion to eliminate the gene for integrin a3 (Itga3) selectively (the receptor) in T cells,” Ciofani told Medical News Today. “Therapeutic blocking of integrins is typically accomplished using antibodies that bind them and prevent them from interacting with other proteins and carrying out their functions. Such antibodies are not available for blocking integrin a3, and our next step would be to generate these antibodies, administer them to mice in a model of MS, evaluate their efficacy in controlling MS clinical symptoms, and assess for potential side effects.”

If the process continues to move forward, it would still be quite a while before people with MS could see the benefits, she noted.

“The [Food and Drug Administration] estimates that it takes approximately eight and a half years to study and test a new drug before it can be approved for the general public,” Ciofani said.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, according to the World Health OrganizationTrusted Source (WHO).

The exact cause of MS is not yet understood. However, people with a family history of MS might have an increased risk of developing the disease. It is a chronic, lifelong disease without a cure.

Around 1 million people in the United States live with MS, according to the National MS Society.

Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 20 and 50, although they can start outside of that window. Around 74% of people with MS are women. It is more common in white people of northern European descent but does occur in most ethnic groups.

Symptoms occur as a result of recurrent attacks of inflammation in the central nervous system, according to a reportTrusted Source published in Clinical Medicine & Research.

There are treatments to reduce symptoms and prevent relapses.

Medical professionals base their treatment recommendations on the clinical subtype of MS, the stage of the disease and the severity of symptoms meant to reduce the frequency and severity of relapses, slow disease progression, and improve quality of life.

Medications are just one part of treatment. Some people may need speechphysical, or occupational therapy and exercise plans to improve functioning.

Source : Medical News Today