Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered that two proteins which are believed to play a key role in controlling the body's immune response are found in lower levels in T lymphocytes from patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The study found that MS patients' T lymphocytes - types of white blood cells which play an important role in the immune system - were defective at producing the proteins and that this was associated with increased levels of molecules which promote inflammation. The findings are reported in the Journal of Immunology-. The work follows on from a recent study published in the journal Immunity- in which the lead scientists first identified the two proteins - known as Egr2 and Egr3 - as being important in both protecting against the development of inflammatory autoimmune diseases, like MS and arthritis, and also in preventing chronic virus infections such as HIV and hepatitis
B and T lymphocytes are essential for defending the body from viruses and eradicating cancer cells. However, their function is regulated to prevent uncontrolled reaction against the body's own tissues, which can lead to the development of inflammatory autoimmune diseases. In contrast, chronic viral infections are associated with reduced function of these cells.
Dr Ping Wang, from the Blizard Institute at Queen Mary, University of London, who supervised the research, said: "Using mice models we initially showed how Egr2 and Egr3 molecules play a role in both promoting the immune response to pathogens and also suppressing the inflammatory response to prevent an overreaction. This was interesting as previously most people had assumed different molecules would be involved in the ramping up and the dampening down of the immune response, not the same ones.