Novel Twins Study Pinpoints Immune System Activity Early in MS Not Accounted for by Genes
February 23, 2022
A new study from the University of Zurich identified immune system patterns in people with MS that may be clues to how MS is triggered. The MS Twin Study – 61 sets of identical twins in which only one twin had MS – is a unique opportunity to study early biological events in MS. Twins have identical genes, so this allows researchers to distinguish other non-genetic differences that may underlie MS.
In this study, researchers used state-of-the-art technologies such as mass cytometry (exploring millions of cells) and machine learning (an automated type of data analysis) to look at the immune profiles of these sets of twins. The results showed key differences in docking sites on immune messenger proteins (cytokines), that affect how immune cells communicate with each other. These differences left people with MS susceptible to greater activation of the cells that drive immune attacks in MS.
Although twins do share early environmental experiences (such as prenatal influences), these results suggest that a later environmental factor or factors might be at play. Ongoing research by scientists around the world are working on identifying those factors and how they launch the disease.
Read more from the University of Zurich
Read the paper, available from Nature via Open Access
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Currently there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include disabling fatigue, mobility challenges, cognitive changes, and vision issues. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimize disability. Significant progress is being made to achieve a world free of MS.