In a paper appearing online on September 22 in advance of print publication of the October 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Douglas Kerr and colleagues from Johns Hopkins find that levels of the cytokine IL-6 are selectively increased in cerebrospinal fluid from TM patients. The researchers show that elevated IL-6 levels alone are necessary and sufficient to mediate injury to both neuronal and glial cells, in a manner that is dependent on nitric oxide.
This is the first description of IL-6 as a mediator of neural injury. Further, high levels of IL-6 were directly correlated with tissue injury and clinical disability, suggesting that IL-6 may be an important biomarker of TM. This new data may aid in the development of effective therapies against TM and other inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system.