All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for January 2004

Multiple sclerosis: etiological mechanisms and future directions

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004 Jan; 229(1): 12-20
Lutton JD, Winston R, Rodman TC.
Institute for Human Genetics and Biochemistry, Cabrini Medical Center, New York, New York 10003.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex human autoimmune-type disease with a predominantly unknown etiology.

Immunologic destruction of myelin basic protein (MBP) throughout the nervous system is the major pathology of multiple sclerosis.

This review will attempt to update new information about basic mechanisms and therapeutic management of the disease.

The significance of the structure of MBP is discussed with respect to the contribution of such structures to the disease process.

A number of MBP peptides that serve as the immunodominant antigens in MS patients have been identified.

These peptides have been studied in animal models for their antigenic characteristics and ability to induce disease.

Evidence for genetic contributions is reviewed with multigenerational twin studies providing the best evidence for susceptible haplotypes.

The role of microorganisms/viruses and environmental agents are discussed as potential etiological factors but are now thought to be of minor importance to the primary causal development of the disease.

Of major consideration are immunological mechanisms that contribute to the development of autoimmunity.

In particular, antigen expression, cytokine and leukocyte interactions, and regulatory T-cells are discussed.

Particular attention is given to regulatory T-cells (Treg), which help balance/modulate other T-cells such as Th1 and Th2 cells, and how such Treg regulate autoimmunity is addressed.

The importance of the role of Tregs is exemplified by the demonstration that administration of oral antigens can induce specific Tregs that counteract experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in animal models.

The significance of animal studies to human multiple sclerosis is discussed.

A potential role for natural antibodies and innate immune mechanisms to help provide resistance to disease development is also reviewed.

Finally, a variety of therapeutic agents that have been and continue to be utilized for multiple sclerosis is reviewed.

Trials with oral antigens, such as glatirmer acetate (copolymer 1) especially in combination with interferon-beta, have shown promise.

Antibody therapy and bone marrow transplantation are also briefly discussed.