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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:

Researchers co-funded by the National MS Society report study results indicating that “Tregs” – regulatory immune cells that are known to be dysfunctional in people with MS – play a role in promoting formation of new myelin following damage. If the results are confirmed through further research, these basic laboratory studies could eventually be translated to promising new therapeutic approaches to stimulating myelin repair to restore function in people with MS. Read more

Treatment with ATX-MS-1467 (Apitope) – an injected immune therapy whose early development was supported by the National MS Society through Fast Forward, the Society’s commercial research funding program – was reported to reduce disease activity on MRI scans in two small open-label studies involving people with relapsing MS. This is an approach to identify pieces of human proteins, called “peptides,” that might be able to reinstate “immune tolerance” – in effect, train immune cells to ignore myelin – to suppress MS attacks. Read more

Scientists at the University of Florida, funded in part by the National MS Society, took a novel approach to turn off immune attacks in mice with an MS-like disease. The team used a harmless virus to deliver a gene coding for a specific component of myelin, a key target of immune attacks in MS. Further research is needed to verify and refine this approach before it can be tested in people. Read more

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