And now for the MS info :-) The following comes from my MSF e-mailer:
Number of Genes Linked to MS More than Doubles
The largest-ever gene study of MS has identified 29 new genetic variants associated with the disease, confirmed 23 previously known genetic links, and suggested five more genes that may contribute to the disease.Scientists regard the findings, recently published in the journal Nature, as significant for two reasons: Because many of the genes linked to MS are involved in regulating the immune system – specifically, the development of T cells – this boosts speculation that the disease is primarily an autoimmune disorder. It also gives researchers new targets for future treatment strategies.For the study, scientists compared DNA from nearly 10,000 people with MS with DNA from more than 17,000 unrelated, healthy individuals. The researchers were affiliated with the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium and the Welcome Trust Case Control Consortium.
They said the newly-found links point to the idea that T-cells – a type of white blood cell responsible for mounting an immune response – and chemicals called interleukins play a key role in the development of the disease.Drugs that target the immune system include rituximab, sold under the brand name Rituxan® by Roche and Biogen to fight leukemia, Tysabri® from Biogen and Elan, Lemtrada, sold as Campath® by Sanofi's unit Genzyme for cancer, and Abbott and Biogen's Zenapax® or daclizumab. Mid-stage trial data for daclizumab recently showed the drug on a par with other new medicines for MS, but some of the side-effects were worrisome.Experts think both genetic and environmental factors are equally important in determining who is likely to develop MS, and taken together, the known genetic variants probably explain about 20 percent of the genetic links, they said.
In a second study reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Genetics, researchers found that many of the genes linked to MS are also linked to other autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's disease and Type 1 diabetes. This also points to potential new uses for existing drugs in development, they said.
Previous research has suggested a link between Vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of MS. Compston's team said that along with the many genes which play a role in the immune system, they had also found two involved in the metabolism of Vitamin D – which mostly comes from sunlight – lending weight to a possible link between genes and the environment.
"We have known for some time that many devastating diseases of the immune system must have common genetic causes," said Chris Cotsapas of Yale University in the United States, who led the PLoS study. "Now we have the outline of a map that tells us where we can look for common treatments."
In 2007, only three genes were linked to MS.
Research Identifies How Vitamin D Combats MS
New research has indicated that vitamin D directly terminates the production of a disease-causing protein, a discovery that may explain the association between levels of vitamin D in a person’s body and the person’s ability to resist or minimize the effects of MS.According to the investigators, a collaborative team of scientists from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Stanford University, the mechanism they identify suggests what might be a new path toward pharmaceutical treatment of MS, as well as therapies for other autoimmune diseases. The mechanism identified by the research team works like this:During MS (“EAE” in mice), a damaging protein called interleukin-17 (IL-17) is produced by immune cells in the brain.After vitamin D binds to its receptor, the receptor parks itself on the gene that encodes IL-17.By doing so, the vitamin D receptor occupies a site normally reserved for a protein called NFAT, which is required to turn the IL-17 gene on.The gene stays off and IL-17 levels plummet.At the same time, the vitamin D receptor turns on another gene, whose product generates suppressive T cells that combat the destructive action of their IL-17-producing counterparts.
The study is published in the September issue of the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Unique Trial uses Adult Stem Cells to Treat MS
The Cleveland Clinic, the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, and Case Western Reserve University are collaborating on a one-of-a-kind clinical trial in the United States which uses a person’s own adult stem cells to treat MS and perhaps even reverse damage caused by the disease.Mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, are found in the bone marrow and are not the embryonic stem cells that have stirred controversy in political and religious arenas.In the phase one trial, a person’s MSCs are harvested, carefully cultivated in a special laboratory and then injected intravenously back into the individual. Since June, three people have undergone the entire process. A total of 24 participants with relapsing or progressively worse MS who have moderate to severe disability will take part in the study over the next two to three years.The primary aim is to test the feasibility and safety of using the body's own stem cells to treat MS. But researchers also are looking closely for any preliminary evidence that the transplanted cells could moderate the over-active immune system, possibly stopping or even repairing tissue damage.If promising results lead to a larger, multicenter clinical trial that also yields good outcomes then the treatment could be offered in a clinical setting within five to seven years, researchers involved in the study told the Cleveland Plains Dealer.More than 150 other clinical trials in the United States and around the world are currently testing MSCs' ability to encourage tissue repair as a way to treat a variety of other conditions such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, emphysema, and stroke. Stem cell therapy is already used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, and certain blood disorders.
The next post will have more from the MSF e-mailer - there is some really interesting stuff in this most recent e-mailer! I love learning more about vitamin D and stem cell research! It is so great that this research continues; I am so hopeful that a cure will come in my lifetime!