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Gene Signatures Predict Interferon Response For Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Multiple sclerosis (MS) can be an unpredictable disease. It develops when the body's immune system attacks healthy nerve cells and disrupts normal nerve signaling. Patients experience a wide range of symptoms—including tingling, paralysis, pain, fatigue, and blurred vision—that can appear independently or in combination, sporadically or persistently. Although symptoms appear in no particular order, flare-ups are common in the majority of patients.

MS flare-ups are commonly treated with beta-interferon. Adverse effects are not uncommon, and, more importantly, a sizable proportion of patients show a reduced response, or no response at all. Given the variability of the disease and treatment response, being able to predict how a particular patient is likely to respond to interferon would help doctors decide how close to monitor the patient or even whether to consider alternative treatments. In a new study, Sergio Baranzini et al. describe a computational model that can predict a patient's therapeutic response to interferon based on their gene expression profiles.

Immune cells typically secrete interferons to fend off viruses and other pathogens. Interferons stem viral infection by inhibiting cell division in neighboring cells—thus preventing the virus from reproducing—and triggering pathways that kill the infected cells. It's thought that interferon therapy may relieve symptoms associated with MS by correcting imbalances in the immune system that lead to disease. Interferon therapy produces changes in the gene expression profile of targeted cells—that is, it inhibits or activates certain genes—which in turn alters the cells' activity.

Blood samples were taken from 52 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (marked by acute flare-ups followed by partial or full recovery), and their RNA was isolated from a class of immune cells called peripheral blood mononuclear cells. After patients started interferon therapy, blood was taken at specific time points
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Source:Public Library of Science


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