University of Virginia School of Medicine scientists have discovered a key determinant of our risk for multiple sclerosis (MS), advancing efforts to prevent and better treat the disease.
Researchers led by Mariano Garcia-Blanco, MD, Ph.D., chair of UVA’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology, identified a series of processes in our cells that suppresses our risk for developing multiple sclerosis. At the head of these processes, the scientists found, is a gene that acts as a master controller for many other genes important in our susceptibility to MS and in the proper functioning of our immune systems.
“It is remarkable that a protein that unwinds RNA is a central player in how we recognize our cells as our own, not to be confused with invading pathogens,” Garcia-Blanco said. He noted that the new understanding could help lead to better, more targeted treatments: “While there are effective treatments for multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, most of these lead to general suppression of the immune system and makes patients susceptible to infections or incapable of responding well to vaccines.”