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Study Reveals Protein's Role in MS Activation

November 11, 2015

A study published in the most recent edition of Nature Immunology, revealed the mechanism by which autoreactive T-cells are capable of penetrating a patient’s brain to induce multiple sclerosis. The scientists discovered that the T-cells are conducted into the nervous system by the cells of the immune system.

Catherine Hedrick, PhD, a professor in the Division of Inflammation Biology and one of the study’s lead authors, said in the press release, “Our results show that macrophages and monocytes actively participate in the initiation and progression of multiple sclerosis, which has long been considered a primarily T cell driven disease. They exacerbate the severity of the disease by sending out chemical signals that boost inflammation and attract autoimmune T cells to the central nervous system.”

The team was able to discover a protein called Nr4a1 prevented autoreactive T cells from infiltrating the central nervous system (CNS). This protein basically blocked the production of norepinephrine, which allows the flow of T-cells into the CNS.

“Monocytes and macrophages have a way to amplify inflammation in the central nervous system, which really shows that myeloid cells play an unexpected and important role in diseases of the brain,” Dr. Iftach Shaked explained.
The findings established Nr4a1 as a key regulator of norepinephrine and showed how its absence potentiates multiple sclerosis, therefore providing new therapeutic avenues for the disease.