Gene changes linked to deficient immune suppression in MS

PORTLAND, Ore. Oregon Health & Science University researchers have measured genetic changes reflecting a drop in the body's ability to suppress inflammatory cells that attack nerve fibers and promote progression of multiple sclerosis.

In a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Neuroscience Research, OHSU scientists, in collaboration with The Immune Response Corp. of Carlsbad, Calif., found that MS patients have lower expression of the FOXP3 gene found in a subset of T-cells that may regulate defense against MS and other autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis. They say that when FOXP3 is reduced due to abnormalities in its expression, the suppressive activity of regulatory T-cells, or T-regs, also plummets.

"This is an important marker," said Arthur Vandenbark, Ph.D., professor of neurology and molecular microbiology and immunology, OHSU School of Medicine, and senior research career scientist at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "This is the first publication that links FOXP3 with reduced suppression in MS."

But there may be a solution to the FOXP3 loss. NeuroVax, a T-cell receptor peptide vaccine co-discovered by Vandenbark and colleagues at The Immune Response Corp., was shown in a separate study to increase FOXP3 expression levels among MS patients receiving injections of the drug for a year.

"When we vaccinate with the T-cell receptor peptides the NeuroVax we can restore the FOXP3 levels," said Vandenbark, who presented the results of the NeuroVax and Journal of Neuroscience Research studies to the European Neurological Society this week in Vienna. "So not only have we identified the marker to show that there are fewer of these T-reg cells present in MS patients, but we're providing a solution for correcting the problem, at least in some patients."

Added Richard Bartholomew, Ph.D., executive director of research and development for The Immune Response Corp. and a study co-author

Contact: Jonathan Modie
Oregon Health & Science University

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