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Multiple sclerosis progression linked to immune-cell substance

COLUMBUS, Ohio A new study suggests that a substance made by immune cells plays a key role in the progression of a disease in animals that closely mimics multiple sclerosis (MS). The findings further suggest that blocking the molecule, known as macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) might prevent the progression of the disease.

Researchers at The Ohio State University Medical Center conducted the study using mice that develop a disease that mimics MS. They compared these animals to similar mice that lacked MIF, an immune-system signaling molecule.

The results show that the animals without MIF develop the initial, acute phase of the disease, but then show no signs of further progression.

The study is published as a Cutting Edge paper in the November 1, 2005, issue of the Journal of Immunology.

"Our results suggest that MIF may be less important for initiating MS, but that it may be necessary for MS progression," says principal investigator Caroline C. Whitacre, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics.

"These findings indicate that in the future we can perhaps use MIF levels to predict the onset of a relapse. But more importantly, perhaps this study will lead to drugs that can halt the course of MS by blocking the action of MIF."

MS is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease which primarily affects the brain and spinal cord. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body's own immune cells destroy tissues in the body. In MS, immune cells destroy the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin is a fatty substance that insulates nerve fibers and enables them to transmit impulses.

According to the National MS Society, about 400,000 Americans are living with MS and about 10,400 new cases are diagnosed yearly. The disease usually strikes between the ages of 20 and 40, and it is more common in women. MS symptoms vary from person to person. Some individuals
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Contact: Darrell E. Ward
Darrell.Ward@osumc.edu
614-293-3737
Ohio State University
19-Oct-2005


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