A comparison of immune cells isolated from identical twins — in which only one of each pair was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) — identified a population of immune-regulating T-cells present in those with asymptomatic brain inflammation, a study has found.
These findings suggest that T-cells may play a pivotal role in triggering MS.
The study, “Immune signatures of prodromal multiple sclerosis in monozygotic twins,” was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
MS is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath, the protective coating around nerve cells, resulting in inflammation, which causes further damage.
Genetic and environmental factors shape the autoimmune response in MS. However, capturing the autoimmunity-related changes that trigger the disease is complicated by the variability (heterogeneity) of the human population, which has a high degree of genetic and environmental diversity.
Furthermore, the appearance of symptoms can be preceded by a long-lasting phase of clinically silent (asymptomatic) neuroinflammation, making it difficult to differentiate between early and late stages of the autoimmune response.
To search for these autoimmunity-related changes, a team of researchers based at Muenster University Hospital, in Germany, in collaboration with investigators at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, investigated a unique group of 43 identical twin pairs in which one twin was diagnosed with MS while the other was not.
The team reasoned that “pairwise comparisons of these [identical] twins would eliminate genetic heterogeneity for each pair, and in addition reduce environmental heterogeneity as the twins included in this study were raised in the same household.”
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