Mapping MS to reveal potential avenues for treatment


It has long been known that in multiple sclerosis (MS), the brain and spinal cord come under devastating attack from the immune system but determining exactly which parts of the immune system are involved has been elusive, at least until now. Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) have created a genomic map of the disease to identify the full range of immune cells that contribute to brain inflammation and nerve cell death.

To make the map, they first identified 233 genetic variants involved in initiating MS. They then followed the effects these variants had on different types of immune cell, looking for the molecular processes that would cause the immune cells to attack the brain and spinal cord.

This genomic map showed that many different immune cells are involved in MS, both in the brain and in the bloodstream. As the cells start to misfire, they confuse the body into attacking itself. “This broader perspective on the widespread dysfunction of the immune system will help scientists identify the best targets and drugs for preventing individuals at risk of MS from developing the disease,” said study leader Philip De Jager, MD, PhD, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at CUIMC.

Current MS treatments are able to help only after brain inflammation has already begun. With the genomic map, those at risk could start preventative and early treatments that target the specific areas of the immune system that are in jeopardy. Learn more.

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