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Study Identifies Novel Subtype of Cell That Appears to Drive Immune Response in Mice and MS

December 2, 2021

An international team of researchers has identified a subtype of immune cells called ILC3 that appear to assist in driving inflammatory, damaging immune T cells into the brain and spinal cord of mice with MS-like disease. These cells are also increased in the bloodstreams of people with relapsing MS. Meanwhile, ILC3 cells in other parts of the body may actually serve to reduce inflammation. Studying these cells further may yield novel strategies for stopping and even preventing MS.
  • If we are going to reduce or eliminate the damaging immune responses underlying multiple sclerosis, we need a better understanding of the biological processes that drive the disease at every stage.
  • Immune cells called T cells are key components of MS immune attacks on the brain and spinal cord, but the pathways by which they are activated and regulated are unclear. This team, led by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine, is exploring a possible role for ILC3 cells, an early version of white blood cells that have lost the ability to mature into T or B cells.
  • In mice with EAE, an MS-like disease, the team observed a significant increase in a novel subtype of ILC3 cells. These cells were in close proximity to immune T cells as they infiltrated the brain and spinal cord from the bloodstream. They also found evidence that these cells were essential to promoting the inflammatory activity of T cells, and found them with a significantly higher frequency in blood samples from people with relapsing MS, compared to matched controls without MS.
  • On the other hand, ILC3s elsewhere in the body actually had the opposite effect, serving to eliminate T cells. In fact, when targeted to the substance triggering EAE, these cells protected mice from disease development.
  • These results provide a greater understanding of early events that may contribute to MS development, and provide a novel target for therapeutic strategies that may stop MS.
Antigen-presenting innate lymphoid cells orchestrate neuroinflammation” by John B. Grigg, Arthi Shanmugavadivu, Tommy Regen, Christopher N. Parkhurst, Anees Ahmed, Ann M. Joseph, Michael Mazzucco, Konrad Gronke, Andreas Diefenbach, Gerard Eberl, Timothy Vartanian, Ari Waisman, and Gregory F. Sonnenberg, is published in Nature (published online December 1, 2021).

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. 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. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.

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