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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.
 
Immune system may drive cognitive changes in MS
Memory impairment and other cognitive changes are experienced by many people with MS, but the details of how this occurs are not clear. Now researchers supported in part by the National MS Society report evidence that a group of immune system proteins called “complement” may play a role in the loss of nerve connections (synapses) in the hippocampus, a part of the brain linked to memory. Read more
 
Distinguishing between 'good' and 'bad' immune cells
A team funded by the National MS Society has shed new light on immune cells known as macrophages, and how one type of these cells may play a significant role in launching damage in MS. The researchers have discovered a way to differentiate between good and bad types of these immune cells active during MS-like disease in mice, and if further research shows that these findings hold true for people with MS, this opens up possibilities for developing therapies that target the bad cells and spare the good cells. Read more

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