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New drug shows promise against multiple sclerosis
Date:11/1/2011

mune system attacks the myelin sheath that insulated nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Most of these attacks have no associated symptoms, but damage to these sheaths can short circuit signals traveling along the nerve fibers. This disrupts the normal flow of communication from the brain and can cause a range of symptoms including visual impairment, weakness, sensory disturbance, fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and loss of coordination.

For decades, work in the field has focused on targeting one component of the immune system the T cells which were always seen as the "smoking gun" of the disease because they attack nerve fibers in the brain, causing the lesions and ultimately the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Ocrelizumab, in contrast, targets a molecule called CD20 found on the surface of B cells, a separate component of the immune system.

Although the mechanism is not exactly clear, said Hauser, the B cells seem to induce the T cells to attack. If T cells are pulling the trigger on nerve fibers in the brain, B cells seem to be the ones that are loading the gun. The Phase 2 trial showed, in essence, that if you block one, you may be able to stop the other.

Hauser said the recently concluded trial validated the idea that targeting the B cells could ultimately help people with multiple sclerosis an idea that Hauser has championed for more than a decade after basic research in his laboratory in the 1990s suggested that these cells play a role in the disease.

"This is a great example of lessons learned at the bench bringing us to an experiment at the bedside that completely transformed our understanding of what we needed to do to develop more selective and more effective therapy for MS" he said.


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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jason.bardi@ucsf.edu
415-502-4608
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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