Benefactors in the Brain

photo: T-cells

In the inflamed brain regions of MS
patients, you can find T-cells with
destructive impact (red), but there
are also T-cells with protective
function (green); © Heinz Wiendl

These "beneficial" immune cells display a propensity to migrate from blood into inflamed nervous tissue. "Drawn in by specific chemoattractants, they obviously counteract the detrimental effects of other immune cells in the brain," explains Heinz Wiendl, Professor at the Department of Neurology at the University of Würzburg.

The findings are based on a variety of experiments using biomaterial from multiple sclerosis (MS) patients including blood, cerebrospinal fluid and tissue of the central nervous system (CNS).

The beneficial immune cells have been identified as so-called naturally regulatory T-cells. The characteristic of these cells: On their surface, they express a protein called HLA-G which is attributed to have a strong immunosuppressive function. The signal for the migration of the cells into inflamed tissue is obviously influenced by another surface molecule, the so-called chemokine receptor CCR5. This is an additional new finding of the Würzburg scientists.

Thus, the work demonstrates the existence of protective elements in the immune activities within the brain of MS patients. Conceptually this beneficial inflammatory factor should counterbalance inflammation in the CNS, but their impact obviously is not strong enough to dampen the disease. However, the notion of such activities might be enhanced in a therapeutic approach eventually benefiting the patients.

How can this be achieved? "An answer to this question as well as a possible practical approach is the long-term objective of our work,"
says Wiendl. But the next step for the Würzburg researchers is to characterize this regulatory T-cell population more precisely and to find ways of using them for therapeutic purposes.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Würzburg