Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects 2.5 million people worldwide and about 400,000 people in the U.S. alone. This neurological condition is an autoimmune disease caused by the attack of the body's own nerve tissue by the immune system. For MS, altered T cells attack the myelin sheath of nerve cells. The myelin sheath is a fatty cellular substance that is actually an extension of glial cells (the support cells of the nervous system). The myelin sheath, which is structured somewhat like a solenoid, is wrapped or coiled around some nerves of the body and functions to increase the speed of nerve impulses through the nerve cell. The destruction of this sheath is responsible for the various neurological symptoms caused by MS (vision problems, loss of balance, limb weakness, etc.).
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a common virus that is found all over the world and can cause mononucleosis and other diseases in people with compromised immune systems. The John Cunningham virus (JC virus) is another common virus with up to 90% of adults in the U.S carrying the virus. However, most do not have any symptoms or illnesses with the virus, but those with suppressed immune systems (people with AIDS or taking immunosuppressive medications) can develop illnesses due to the JC virus.
Autoimmune disorders develop when the body’s immune system does not distinguish between the body’s own cells and antigens. The destruction by the immune system of normal tissues is the basis of autoimmune diseases. The search for effective treatments or cures for autoimmune disorders depends on understanding the factors involved in immune cell function.
Canadian doctors observe complete stable remission of the autoimmune disorder myasthenia gravis in all seven patients that underwent autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in their hospital in the past 14 years.
Olympic Games 2004, Athens, Greece. It’s the men’s 400m hurdles finals. American athlete James Carter barrels over the hurdles, going strong, leading the pack. He looks a far cry from his younger 12-year-old self. Back then, he was unable to run, barely able to walk, and his muscles did not follow his mind’s orders. Eventually, he was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder myasthenia gravis (MG) and had his thymus removed. Mr. Carter knows about hurdles.
A long-awaited discovery leads researchers to find the pathogenic T cells that recognize and destroy pancreatic beta cells.
When it comes to autoimmune diseases, the patient’s main problem lies within. In such diseases, the immune system’s T cells go rogue and start attacking different organs, resulting in disease. Scientists are constantly trying to discover the identity of the autoimmune T cells as this may be the first step in a preventative therapy.