August 15, 2002
Caroline C. Whitacre, PhD (Ohio State University, Columbus) and colleagues report that a protein that blocks interaction between immune cells inhibits and suppresses EAE, an MS-like disease in mice. Dr. Whitacre’s project is funded in part by a research grant from the National MS Society, and these findings are reported in the August 15 issue of The Journal of Immunology.
T cells, immune cells that drive the attack on myelin (the substance that insulates nerve fibers) and nerve fibers in MS, require two signals to be activated to attack. First a T cell recognizes a substance as being foreign, and second, “co-stimulatory” molecules on the T cell and another immune cell bind to each other to activate the T cell. That launches the immune attack against the foreign substance; in MS, a component of myelin appears to be mistakenly targeted.
Dr. Whitacre’s team has designed a protein that mimics and inhibits a key co-stimulatory molecule, called CD28, and thus interferes with this second signal, preventing the T cell from becoming activated. Administering this protein to mice with EAE suppressed disease, even after it was already in active stages.
“This protein represents an exciting prospect for treating active MS,”
says Dr. Whitacre. “We must first learn more about the mechanism underlying
its ability to suppress EAE prior to considering it for human studies.”
© 2002 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society