Selective blockade of the immune system can counteract disease in a MS model in rhesus monkeys

10 January 2015

BPRC - 1. Selective blockade of the immune system can counteract disease in a MS model in rhesus monkeys

The immune system protects the body against pathogens. In autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), this system is dysfunctional, resulting in an attack of tissues of the own body by the immune system. In MS, the insulating layer around nerves in de brains is destroyed, causing problems in the nerve conduction and hampering the control of the muscles. It may be possible to halt the progress of the disease by inhibiting the cells that are involved in the destruction of the insulating layer.

Influenced by stimulating or inhibitory signals, different types of cells of the immune system interact with each other. In autoimmune diseases, this system is out of balance. The cells are continuously activated, causing them to destroy the insulating layer around the nerves. Researchers from the BPRC have studied whether it is possible to inhibit this continuous activation. The tested therapy is new in its kind, because the inhibitory signals that are already present are not blocked, and the expectation is that this enhances the effect of the therapy.

This has been studied in an experimental model of MS in rhesus monkeys. The animals that had received the special therapy did not get the MS-like disease whereas the animals in the control group got ill. An potential unwanted side effect of this therapy could be that reactions that are needed to inhibit pathogens are inhibited as well. Until now, this has hardly been studied, but in this study the researchers were able to show that regardless of the treatment, the immune system was still capable of controlling many pathogens. This study, published in the Journal of Immunology shows that it is possible to specifically inhibit adverse interactions within the immune system therebye restoring its balance. This knowledge will be very useful in the development of new therapies against autoimmune diseases.