Insights into the pathology of relapsing multiple sclerosis are provided in a study in the January 2007 issue of Nature Immunology.
This research shows that the molecule osteopontin, an inflammatory mediator, extends the lifetime of auto-aggressive immune cells and thus contributes to disease progression. Larry Steinman and colleagues studied mice lacking osteopontin, in an animal model of relapsing multiple sclerosis, which develop a less severe form of the disease. Auto-aggressive immune cells were less likely to survive in the brains of osteopontin-deficient mice compared to their normal littermates; an observation that correlated with disease remission.
In contrast, mice given osteopontin developed severe disease, ultimately leading to their death.
Using this information the authors were also able to show that osteopontin increased the lifespan of auto-aggressive immune cells grown in the lab, altering the expression of several genes that regulate cell survival and division. These findings suggest treatments targeting osteopontin might benefit multiple sclerosis patients.
Lawrence Steinman (Stanford University, CA, USA)
Additional contact for comment on the paper:
Joan Goverman, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
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