Depleting B cells improves outcomes for multiple sclerosis patients, but what is the underlying biology? Peripheral blood from HemaCare helped provide answers.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the protective myelin coat of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord become damaged. Consequently, any function related to the central nervous system can be adversely affected, but the most common symptoms are severe fatigue, visual problems, altered sensitivity, and reduced mobility. The root cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown, but the research community has learned that it is an abnormal immune-mediated response that attacks the myelin coating.
T cells are found in great numbers in multiple sclerosis lesions. They play a dominant role in an animal model of the disease, so naturally researchers had focused on this part of the immune system. However, B cells, most famous for producing antibodies, have received increasing attention. It is increasingly more appreciated that B cells may play a chief role in causing inflammation and relapses. In fact, recent clinical trial results made waves when announcing that a therapy that depletes B cells improved outcomes for multiple sclerosis patients.
But how exactly would B cells be culprits in multiple sclerosis inflammation and relapse? B cells not only generate antibodies; some can orchestrate T cell responses by presenting antigens to these cells. Researchers obtained blood samples from relapsing multiple sclerosis patients as well as those from healthy donors, the latter supplied by HemaCare. They found no significant difference in T central memory, T effector memory, or neuroantigen-specific cells from either group of peripheral blood samples. However, B cells from some of the multiple sclerosis patients, after being cultured with autologous T cells, induced proliferation upon exposure to neuroantigens. The T cells involved were Th17 cells, a subset of T helper cells that have been implicated in disease with an autoimmune component, including multiple sclerosis. These findings provide evidence that B cells directly support neuroantigen-specific Th17 responses in relapsing multiple sclerosis.
HemaCare is proud to have provided the peripheral blood used in this study and applauds groundbreaking research on ailments in need of novel therapies. Learn more by contacting us directly at (877) 397-3087.
- Ireland, SJ et al. B cells from relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis patients support neuro-antigen-specific Th17 responses. J Neuroimmunol. 2006;291:46-53.