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Multiple sclerosis blocked in mouse model
Date:3/7/2011

Scientists have blocked harmful immune cells from entering the brain in mice with a condition similar to multiple sclerosis (MS).

According to researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, this is important because MS is believed to be caused by misdirected immune cells that enter the brain and damage myelin, an insulating material on the branches of neurons that conduct nerve impulses.

New insights into how the brain regulates immune cell entry made the accomplishment possible. Washington University scientists had borrowed an anti-cancer drug in development by the company ChemoCentryx simply to test their theories.

"The results were so dramatic that we ended up producing early evidence that this compound might be helpful as a drug for MS," says Robyn Klein, MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology and immunology, of medicine and of neurobiology. "The harmful immune cells were unable to gain access to the brain tissue, and the mice that received the highest dosage were protected from disease."

ChemoCentryx is now testing the drug in Phase I safety trials. The study is published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Klein and her colleagues discovered a chemical stairway that immune cells have to climb down to enter the brain. Immune cells that exit the blood remain along the vessels on the tissue side, climbing down from the meninges into the brain where they can then cross additional barriers and attack myelin on the branches of neurons.

"The effect of immune cell entry into the brain depends on context," Klein says. "In the case of viral infection, immune cell entry is required to clear the virus. But in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, their entry is associated with damage so we need to find ways to keep them out."

The stairway is located on the tissue side of the microvasculature, tiny vessels that carry blood into the central nervous system. The
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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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