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A self-antigen molecule may trigger Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

In Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients, their immune system mistakenly attacks the neurological system. A new research by a team of scientists from University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland may have found the self-antigen molecule that could be the spark of MS disease. This new finding may help in the development of new treatment for the disease.

A self-antigen molecule is a natural molecule (as in, it naturally occurs inside our bodies) that is mistakenly spotted by our immune system as a threat. 

Specific immune system cells called T-cells have been analysed from a patient who died from MS to help researchers  understand how these cells are triggered. T-cells switch on when they detect an invasive microbe in our bodies, but they also turn on in people who have MS. The research team was able to isolate a human enzyme called guanosine diphosphate-L-fucose synthase from fragments of T-cells. The enzyme was then tested in MS patients, who reacted to it.

An important point of this research is that guanosine diphosphate-L-fucose synthase, although present in the brain, had never been studied as a possible link to the onset of MS disease. Neuroimmunologist Reinhard Hohlfeld of Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich says “the discovery is a first step in an interesting new direction.”

This research may also support a previous study that pointed gut-bacteria as a possible spark of Multiple Sclerosis (read “Gut microbes could help trigger multiple sclerosis“).

If this enzyme becomes a potential self-antigen as it is suspected, it could be used in MS patients to minimize or control certain symptoms of the disease, similarly to allergy vaccines that prevent allergic reactions in certain people when they are exposed to an allergen, says Dr. Mireia Sospedra, one of the authors of this new research.

This article is a summary of the original article published in Science: An elusive molecule that sparks multiple sclerosis may have been found”,  By Mitch Leslie