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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NIH researchers implicate unique cell type in multiple sclerosis



Study reveals new effects of the investigational MS drug daclizumab


Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found evidence that a unique type of immune cell contributes to multiple sclerosis (MS). Their discovery helps define the effects of one of the newest drugs under investigation for treating MS — daclizumab — and could lead to a new class of drugs for treating MS and other autoimmune disorders.

In these disorders, the immune system turns against the body's own tissues. Ongoing clinical trials have shown that daclizumab appears to help quiet the autoimmune response in MS patients, but its precise effects on the legions of cells that make up the immune system are not fully understood.

The new study, published in Science Translational Medicine, shows that one effect of daclizumab is to thin the ranks of lymphoid tissue inducer (LTi) cells. These cells are known to promote the development of lymph nodes and related tissues during fetal life, but their role during adulthood has been unclear. The new study marks the first time that LTi cells have been implicated in any human autoimmune disorder.

"While further study is required to confirm the role of LTi cells in autoimmunity, our results point to the cells as a promising target for the development of new drugs to treat autoimmune disorders," said Bibiana Bielekova, M.D., an investigator at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Dr. Bielekova and her team found that among MS patients participating in clinical trials of daclizumab, the number of LTi cells was elevated in patients not receiving daclizumab compared to those on the drug. Patients receiving daclizumab also had reduced signs of inflammation in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the brain. And the researchers found that daclizumab appears to steer the body away from producing LTi cells, in favor of another cell type that counteracts autoimmunity.

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