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.
The article, "B cell exchange across the blood-brain barrier in multiple sclerosis" by H.-Christian von Büdingen, Tracy C. Kuo, Marina Sirota, Christopher J. van Belle, Leonard Apeltsin, Jacob Glanville, Bruce A. Cree, Pierre-Antoine Gourraud, Amy Schwartzburg, Gabriella Huerta, Dilduz Telman, Purnima D. Sundar, Tyler Casey, David R. Cox and Stephen L. Hauser was published online by the Journal of Clinical Investigation on Nov.19, 2012. See: http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI63842
In addition to UCSF, authors on this study were affiliated with Applied Quantitative Genotherapeutics and Protein Engineering, which are both divisions of Rinat-Pfizer Inc.
This work was supported by grants from Pfizer Inc., The Nancy Davis Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health through grant #R01NS026799, #R01NS049477, and #K02NS072288.
Additional supported was provided by an endowment from the Rachleff Family Foundation, a FCMSC Research Scholarship and a PACCTR Short-Term Fellowship from UCSF.
UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.
Jason Socrates Bardi | EurekAlert!
Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University
Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences