The “disease with 1000 faces” is how multiple sclerosis (MS) is sometimes described. The reason for this name is that the clinical picture can differ dramatically from patient to patient – in terms of both the progression of the disease and the symptoms suffered.
They infected mice in the laboratory with a specific species of bacteria – listeria –, which shares a protein with oligodendrocytes, and observed the consequences when peripheral parts of the body were infected and when the infection was confined to the brain.
A kind of “trade-off” seems to be responsible for the difference in progression. The brain’s “decision” to allow the attack helps combat the pathogen. It would appear that the brain is applying the motto: better that a few infected cells are destroyed and nerve cell extensions are demyelized than that the pathogen spreads and may therefore kill the sufferer. However, in the absence of an infection with menacing pathogens, the brain “recognizes” that this is a misguided attack by killer T cells and destroys them. It is possible, though, that the brain may sometimes “overestimate” the threat posed by a microbial pathogen and may sacrifice the protective myelin sheath unnecessarily.Next steps
Gunnar Bartsch | idw
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