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Multiple sclerosis, Italian researchers discover a possible onset mechanism for the disease
Date:2/26/2010

A non-pathogenic bacterium is capable to trigger an autoimmune disease similar to the multiple sclerosis in the mouse, the model animal which helps to explain how human diseases work. This is what a group of researchers from the Catholic University of Rome, led by Francesco Ria (Institute of General Pathology) and Giovanni Delogu (Institute of Microbiology), have explained for the first time in a recently published article on the Journal of Immunology.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease due to an inflammatory reaction provoked by the immune system. It causes the disruption of the coating of the nerve fibres in the Central Nervous System.

"We do not know what causes multiple sclerosis", explains Francesco Ria, immunologist of the Catholic University. "We know that there exist a genetic factor and an environmental factor, but we do not yet posses a satisfactory theory which can explain how exactly this environmental factor works".

Currently, there are two competing theories on the field: according to a first hypothesis, a virus hides within the brain and what causes the disease is the immunologic antiviral reaction. On the other hand, the second hypothesis states that a viral or bacterial pathogen similar to specific molecules of the Central Nervous System causes an inflammation which provokes a reaction of the immune system. This reaction ends up destroying the brain cells. The latter is called the autoimmune hypothesis.

This is the hypothesis that the researchers coming from the Institutes of General Pathology, Microbiology and Anatomy of the Catholic University of Rome have been testing with their two-year long work. To demonstrate the viability of this idea, scientists have fooled the mouse immune system, modifying subtly a bacterium of the common family of mycobacteria (the same family to which also the bacterium causing tuberculosis belongs) to make it look like to myelin, the protein coating nerve cells. This modified mycobacteri
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Contact: Francesco Ria
fria@rm.unicatt.it
39-338-466-2776
Catholic University of Rome
Source:Eurekalert

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