Researchers Seek to Control Multiple Sclerosis Progression

Study may lead to vaccines that force an immune response.

Study may lead to vaccines that force an immune response.

Investigators recently gained a greater understanding of the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS), which may lead to improved treatments.

A study published in Nature Communications identified a protein implicated in the significant inflammatory immune response that powers MS progression, in addition to other autoimmune diseases.

This chemokine receptor protein is involved in transporting T-cells throughout the body as the T-cells are in the “super-inflammatory mode” that fights persistent infections. However, in autoimmune diseases such as MS, these inflamed cells attack body tissues instead.

The CCR2 chemokine receptor implicated in this process is different than the receptor previously thought to be involved in this process.

"Everybody has been focusing on the CCR6 receptor as the one to target to control this inflammatory response," said study lead Professor Shaun McColl, director of the Centre for Molecular Pathology at the University of Adelaide in Australia. "We've now shown that the receptor to target is actually CCR2. Blocking CCR6 makes the disease worse. If we can find an antagonist to block the CCR2 receptor specifically on these T-cells, we should be able to control the progression of MS."

This analysis may soon pave the way for superior vaccines to fight infection.

"Unlike in autoimmune diseases, where the body's immune response is destroying its own cells and the aim is to block T-cell migration, with persistent infection we want to turn on the super-inflammatory response and enhance the migration of the immune cells to sites where they are needed," McColl said. "This research may help guide development of vaccines that can better force that immune response."