Research on the Immune System - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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Research on the Immune System

Understanding and stopping MS in its tracks requires a better understanding of the role that the immune system plays in the inflammatory attacks on myelin and, very possibly, in the injury to axons (the wire-like nerve fibers) that contributes to longer-term disability.

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Research on immune activity in MS

Understanding and stopping MS in its tracks requires a better understanding of the role that the immune system plays in this disease. This system is involved both in the inflammatory attacks on myelin and, very possibly, in the injury to axons (the wire-like nerve fibers) that contributes to longer-term disability. Research on the immune system includes studies on:
  • Understanding components of the immune system such as T cells, B cells, and antibodies
  • Identifying new targets for therapeutic intervention while leaving the rest of the immune system capable of fighting infections
  • Identifying substances and processes involved in the injury of axons
  • Identifying the body’s natural immune messenger molecules that can either turn on or turn off immune attacks
Significant progress is being made in understanding the immune system's involvement in MS, which will help drive breakthrough solutions to change the world for everyone with MS. 

We’re making progress

Studies of the immune system in MS laid the groundwork for every disease-modifying therapy now available, and these studies continue to hold promise for finding ways to stop MS. Here are reports of recent progress:

Decades of Basic Research Pay Off with Early Clinical Trial of Immune Therapy
An international team has reported results of a small, early clinical trial involving 10 people with relapsing or secondary-progressive MS. The trial tested the feasibility and safety of using a patient’s own altered blood cells to reduce immune responses against specific components of myelin, the nerve covering that is a key target of immune attacks in MS. Treatment appeared safe and showed signs of reducing immune responses to myelin, This is one example of how the Society’s long-term investment in basic research that has relevance to MS pays off. Read details here.
 
Dietary Salt May Stimulate Activity of Key Immune Cells Involved in MS Attacks
Three studies suggest that dietary salt can speed the development of an MS-like disease in mice, and provide new insights on immune system activity involved in MS.  While more research needs to be done to confirm a role for salt in triggering MS, or to determine whether reducing salt can inhibit MS immune attacks, these studies pinpoint new avenues for strategies that can decrease MS attacks. These studies were the product of a collaborative team effort funded in part by the Society. Read more.
 
Society’s Partner Apitope Reaches Key Milestone in Clinical Trial
Apitope International completed recruitment for a phase I study of the peptide therapy ATX-MS-1467 in 40 people with relapsing forms of MS. Apitope has developed an approach that might be able to train immune cells to ignore nervous system target tissues to suppress MS attacks. This study may yield findings that bring us closer to a potential novel targeted strategy that stops the MS immune attack in its tracks. Early investment by the Society through Fast Forward enabled Apitope to enter into a development and license agreement with Merck Serono for the ATX-MS-1467 program. By connecting people, ideas, and resources, promising treatments can now break through barriers, move through the pipeline, and enter clinical trials -- faster. Read more.
 

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