St. Louis, Sept. 29, 2008 A protein that helps keep immune cells quiet is more abundant in the spinal fluid of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), further boosting suspicion that the protein, TREM-2, may be an important contributor to the disease.
More of an immune-control protein might seem like a boon to MS sufferers, whose symptoms are caused by misdirected immune attacks on the protective lining that coats nerve cell branches. But researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found the extra TREM-2 was not in the right place to reduce aggression in immune cells, a revelation that could eventually lead scientists to new pharmaceutical targets for MS prevention.
"Previously, TREM-2 had only been seen on the surface of immune cells; in the new study, we found it floating freely in spinal fluid," says lead author Laura Piccio, M.D., Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow. "This is only speculation for now, but these 'free agent' copies of TREM-2 could be making it harder for the TREM-2 that is attached to immune cells to keep the cells' aggressiveness under control."
Piccio explains that TREM-2 is a receptor protein, which means that another molecule activates it. Scientists don't currently know what that other molecule is, but the "free agent" TREM-2 in the spinal fluid could be binding to the molecule, reducing the chances that it will bind to and activate TREM-2 attached to immune cells. If Piccio and her colleagues can confirm their theory, the TREM-2 in the spinal fluid or its unknown partner could become targets for new MS treatments. The findings appear in the journal Brain.
Epidemiologists estimate that 400,000 people in the United States have MS. Symptoms, which often strike in episodic bursts, include bladder and bowel dysfunction, memory problems, fatigue, dizziness, depression, difficulty walking, numbness, pain and vision problems. The disease is more common among Caucasians than any other
|Contact: Michael C. Purdy|
Washington University School of Medicine