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OHSU-VAMC study sheds light on estrogen's benefit for MS

PORTLAND, Ore. For years, doctors have suggested the best treatment for multiple sclerosis is pregnancy. Now, an Oregon study is delivering solid evidence to support the theory.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center have uncovered the mechanism by which estrogen, produced in high volumes during pregnancy, boosts the expression and number of regulatory cells that are key to fighting MS and other autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis and diabetes.

The study, published in the "Cutting Edge" section of the current issue of The Journal of Immunology, shows the hormone augments a compartment containing T cells known as CD4+CD25+, and a regulatory protein called FoxP3. The cells are important for protecting mice against a model for human MS called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).

Autoimmune disease has been associated with a deficiency of FoxP3, whose expression is a reliable indicator of the regulatory T cells' function and development.

"This is the first report that this single, benign compound estrogen can increase regulatory cells," said study co-author Halina Offner, Ph.D., professor of neurology, and anesthesiology and peri-operative medicine, OHSU School of Medicine and the Portland VA Medical Center. "When you remove (the CD4+CD25+ cells), animals get autoimmune disease. They're very important to maintaining a healthy state."

Dennis Bourdette, M.D., professor and chairman of neurology, OHSU School of Medicine, and director of OHSU's MS Center of Oregon, says understanding how estrogens boost protective T cells to fight MS will lead to the development of "estrogen-like" drugs that could increase the cells without the female hormone's side effects.

"Dr. Offner and her research team have made a major breakthrough in understanding how estrogens help MS," Bourdette said. "This breakthrough will provide a critical 'tool' for developing these n
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Contact: Jonathan Modie
modiej@ohsu.edu
503-494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
26-Aug-2004


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