Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have made a discovery that could lead to more effective treatments for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.
MS is a disease that affects approximately 2.3 million people worldwide and over 9,000 people in Ireland (this writer is one of them). Its cause is still unknown, but it is suspected that immune cells infiltrate the brain and spinal cord, causing damage to the nerves and leading to neurological disabilities.
The researchers at Trinity College have identified a specific immune molecule, known as IL-17, which they believe kickstarts that immune response. When experimenting with a mouse model of MS, they showed that immune “T-Cells,” which secrete IL-17, causes damage to the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves in the central nervous system.
“The new research shows that a key role of IL-17 is to mobilize and activate an army of disease-causing immune cells in the lymph nodes that then migrate to the central nervous system to cause nerve damage,” says Professor Kingston Mills, professor of experimental immunology at Trinity College.
Early clinical trials with antibody-based drugs that block IL-17 have shown promise in the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS and have already been licensed for the treatment of psoriasis. ♦