Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have made an important discovery that may lead to more effective multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments as well as other autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. They are focused on drugs centering on IL-17, a specific molecule implicated in MS. They recently published their results in Immunity.
Led by Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology and Aoife McGinley, Postdoctoral Fellow at Trinity’s School of Biochemistry and Immunology, the Irish researchers are pursuing complex immunological underpinnings of MS.
A debilitating disease impacting about 2.3 million people worldwide—not to mention 9,000 in Ireland—the disease is associated with infiltration of immune cells into the brain and spinal cord that damage the nerves leading to neurological disabilities
Pre-clinical research has focused on mouse models of MS called autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE)—Revealing that immune “T cells” known to secrete an immune molecule called IL-17 triggers damage to the myelin sheath surrounding the central nervous system (CNS), reports Trinity College via press release.
Trinity College Dublin reported that antibody-based drugs that block IL-17 in early-stage clinical trials evidence some promise in the treatment of relapsing-remitting (RR) MS and already have been licensed for the treatment of psoriasis, another autoimmune disorder.
Professor Mills’ research focuses on an entirely new role for IL-17 in EAE and potentially MS and noted: “Our team found that IL-17 plays a critical ‘priming’ role in kick-starting the disease-causing immune response that mediates the damage in EAE and MS.” He continued, “The new research shows that, instead of playing a direct part in CNS pathology, a key role in IL-17 is to mobilize and activate an army of disease-causing immune cells in the lymph nodes that then migrate to the CNS to cause the nerve damage.”
Dr. McGinley chimed in, “Crucially, our findings suggest that drugs that block IL-17 may not need to get across the blood-brain-barrier to be effective in treating MS. So, as well as shedding new light on the importance of IL-17 as a drug target in RR MS, our research highlights the huge potential of drugs that block IL-17 in the treatment of other autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.”
Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology
Aoife McGinley, Postdoctoral Fellow at Trinity’s School of Biochemistry and Immunology
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