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New Study Shows Extent That Interferon Affects Activity of Immune Genes in People with MS

November 7, 2019

SUMMARY:
  • Researchers at the University of Chicago and collaborators used advanced technology to examine gene signals in immune cells from multiple blood samples from people with MS treated with interferon beta, people with MS who were untreated, and people without MS.
  • Among their findings, they report numerous irregularities in the status of genes related to immune activity in the untreated group that normalized after long-term treatment with interferon beta.
  • They also defined 277 immune-related genes that differed in their status between people who were categorized as “complete responders” to interferon therapy and those considered “partial responders.” This raises the future possibility of developing a lab test to predict an individual’s likelihood of benefiting from interferon therapy.
  • The research was supported by the National MS Society and Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals. The team (Xuan Feng, PhD, Anthony Reder, MD, and colleagues) published their findings in EbioMedicine (Article in Press)
 
DETAILS
Background: Studies have noted disruptions in the activity of the immune messenger protein interferon beta in people with MS. Versions of interferon beta are administered as disease-modifying therapies for relapsing MS. This team took advantage of advanced  microarray technology – which allows for analysis of the products of thousands of genes – to understand more about how immune cell-related genes respond to interferon therapy in people with MS, and whether interferon provides long-term resolution of abnormal immune responses.
 
The Study: Investigators examined changes in the genes in immune-related blood cells obtained from 46 people with MS and 8 healthy people without MS. Among the group with MS, 27 people had received therapy with interferon beta and 19 had never taken disease-modifying therapy for MS. The team followed participants for five years and collected blood samples at specific times to examine short-term and long-term effects.
 
Among their findings, the team showed that 8,800 genes showed irregular status in those who were untreated, but not in those who had undergone long-term treatment with interferon beta. The irregularities affected genes involved in immune system regulation and neuroprotection. There were also significant differences between people categorized as “complete responders” to interferon compared to those considered “partial responders.” This raises the future possibility of developing a lab test to predict an individual’s likelihood of benefiting from interferon therapy --- a personalized medicine approach that would improve the ability to shut down immune attacks in MS.
 
The team (Xuan Feng, PhD, Anthony Reder, MD, and colleagues from the University of Chicago and other institutions) published their findings in EbioMedicine (Article in Press)
 
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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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