February 18, 2003
Researchers found that a virus called human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) may play a role in immune attacks in MS, a study in the February edition of Annals of Neurology suggests.
Although scientists have long believed that a virus such as HHV-6 might trigger immune attacks in MS patients, determining a direct link between the virus and MS has been difficult.
Therefore, researchers at the Baylor Multiple Sclerosis Center in Houston studied HHV-6 to see if the virus might stimulate certain cells, called T-cells, that help coordinate the immune system and react to myelin basic protein. MBP is a major component of myelin, which is damaged by the immune attack in MS.
In their research, Dr. Maria Tejada-Simon and team found some matching protein segments in HHV-6 and MBP. After finding this, they designed synthetic proteins made up of these matching segments and looked at the T-cell responses in 12 patients with MS and in 11 volunteers without MS. According to the results, more than one-half of the T-cells reacting to MBP also reacted to HHV-6.
Among people with MS, the T-cells were activated by the MBP segment and by the HHV-6 segment significantly more often than in people without MS.
While these findings suggest an association between HHV-6 and the immune
response to a myelin protein, the scientists are not sure if HHV-6 results
in the T-cells attacking myelin. It is also not clear whether the T-cell
reaction to MBP creates a greater immune response to HHV-6.
© FWI 2003