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Certain Inflammatory Immune Cells Are Increased in African Americans and Hispanics/Latino/as with MS

November 20, 2019

SUMMARY:
  • A new study showed that certain inflammatory immune cell subsets were increased in African Americans and Hispanics/Latino/as with MS, when compared to Caucasian Americans with MS and healthy controls.
  • These results may indicate an underlying mechanism for the more severe course of MS observed in African Americans and Hispanics/Latino/as with MS. Further study is necessary to confirm the results and more fully understand their implications for improving the management of MS in these populations.
  • The team (Kiel M. Telesford, PhD, Timothy Vartanian, MD, PhD, and colleagues at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY)  published their findings in Neurology Neuroimmunology and Neuroinflammation (2019 Oct 31;7(1))
 
DETAILS
Background: Research shows that MS occurs in most ethnic groups, including African Americans, Asians and Hispanics/Latino/as; susceptibility rates vary among these groups. One team previously reported that African Americans tended to have a more aggressive course of disease than Caucasian Americans and were at higher risk for developing mobility impairments. (Neurology 2004;63[11]:2039-45) Other research has shown that Hispanic/Latinos/as diagnosed with MS after age 18 were more likely to have severe disability. (Journal of Child Neurology 2016 Jul;31(8):1068-73)
                       
The current study looked at blood samples to determine if a specific immune mechanism underlies these clinical differences.
 
The Study: Investigators recruited people with MS from different racial/ethnic backgrounds to investigate differences in immune activity. They enrolled and obtained blood samples from 27 African Americans or Hispanics/Latino/as with relapsing-remitting MS who were treated with natalizumab, 27 Caucasian Americans treated with natalizumab, 20 untreated people with relapsing-remitting MS, and 24 controls without MS. Natalizumab was chosen because it does not delete immune cells that were the subject of this study. (Participants self-identified their ancestry as Black African, Latin American/Hispanic, or Caucasian/European.) The investigators analyzed the blood for the presence of subsets of immune B cells (antibody-secreting cells) that have been shown to be important drivers of inflammation and tissue damage in MS.
 
Results: There were significantly more of these antibody secreting B cell subsets among African Americans and Hispanics/Latino/as with MS than those in the Caucasian group. The increased cell types included subsets that are associated with a poorer prognosis and a more active disease course of MS.
 
The team (Kiel M. Telesford, PhD, Timothy Vartanian, MD, PhD, and colleagues at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY)  published their findings in Neurology Neuroimmunology and Neuroinflammation (2019 Oct 31;7(1))
 
Conclusions: These results may indicate an underlying mechanism for the more severe course of MS observed in African Americans and Hispanics/Latino/as with MS. Further study is necessary to confirm the results and more fully understand their implications for improving the management of MS in these populations.
 
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About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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