People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who self-identify black African or Latin American have a higher number of disease-associated antibody-secreting cells in their blood compared to those who identify as Caucasian, a U.S. study reports.
This difference may account for disparities related to ethnicity in MS prognosis, and may point to distinct underlying mechanisms linked to MS progression.
The study, “Black African and Latino/a identity correlates with increased plasmablasts in MS,” was published in the journal Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation.
A person’s ethnic origin is an important factor in MS. Patients who identify as either black African or Latin American are likely to experience more severe disease — more and larger brain lesions, faster “brain and retinal degeneration” — than are those who identify as white.
The reason for this disparity is not understood, as no reports cite a direct underlying biological mechanism related to such ethno-based clinical disparity.
Analyses of medical records from patients of different ethnicities note differences in types of immune cells that secrete antibodies — normally present to fight infections. Specifically, elevated levels of antibody-secreting cells (ASCs) have been found in the space around the spinal cord among African-American MS patients compared to Caucasian patients, and this difference has been linked to the deterioration of nerve cells.
Two types of ASCs are plasma cells and immature plasma cells, known as plasmablasts. These cells appear to be important drivers of both the inflammatory and neurodegenerative aspects of MS.
To determine if the poorer prognosis based on ethnic origin can be explained by the numbers of ASCs, a team of researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York collected blood samples from 74 people with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) from both black African/Latin American and Caucasian patient groups to determine the numbers of plasmablasts and maturing plasma cells.
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