What Causes the Causes of MS

Researchers identify molecule that may lead to new treatments for multiple sclerosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Researchers have had lots of challenges trying to understand what causes multiple sclerosis (MS). New research shows what may be the key driving force behind MS and similar diseases.

A certain molecule may be to blame for autoimmune diseases like MS and rheumatoid arthritis. Without this molecule, white blood cells cannot cause MS to attack a person's healthy tissues.

"The causes of MS remain unknown."

According to research leader Abdolmohamad Rostami, M.D., Ph.D., from Thomas Jefferson University, this finding could lead to better treatments for MS. If the molecule - called GM-CSF - can be turned off in people, then it is likely that they will not develop MS.

People get autoimmune diseases like MS and rheumatoid arthritis when their immune system mistakes healthy tissues for something dangerous.

White blood cells attack the healthy tissue, causing inflammation that damages different parts of the body. In cases of MS, the inflammation damages the central nervous system.

While researchers have known that certain white blood cells - called T helper 17 (Th17) cells - are responsible for inflammation, they did not know what triggered the Th17 cells.

Rostami and his team studied mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis - a disease similar to MS that is commonly used in testing.

In Depth

  • The researchers found that mice did not suffer from inflammation of the nervous system (a main cause of MS) if their Th17 cells could not make GM-CSF.
  • This finding suggests that GM-CSF is responsible for the onset of MS.
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Review Date: 
April 25, 2011
Last Updated:
April 27, 2011