The new work suggests that targeting B cells could be extended into a precision strategy that would specifically tailor treatments to the exact identity of the B cells at work in any one patient.
Background on B cells and Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a common, chronic disease affecting some 350,000 Americans whose immune systems periodically attack the myelin sheaths that insulates nerve fibers in the brains and spinal cord. Damage to the sheaths can short-circuit signals traveling along the nerve fibers, disrupting the normal flow of communication from the brain and causing a range of symptoms.
The disease is about three times more prevalent among women than men, and for reasons scientists do not understand, the number of women who have the disease has been increasing in proportion to men. Decades ago, there were about as many men as women with multiple sclerosis.
That disparity is not the only mystery surrounding multiple sclerosis. The severity of the disease can vary wildly, from people who have mild disease, rarely having symptoms, to people who suffer significant deficits for long periods of time, sometimes progressively, with weakness, sensory disturbance, fatigue, visual impairments and loss of coordination. In addition, scientists do not understand what triggers MS attacks, though researchers at UCSF and elsewhere are actively investigating a number of possible genetic and environmental triggers, including low vitamin D levels.
There also is a need to find better ways to diagnose, monitor and track the disease a need that may be helped by the new discovery.
"We don't have any specific diagnostic tool at this point no biomarker that we can look for to say, 'this is multiple sclerosis'," von Bdingen said.
|Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi|
University of California - San Francisco