Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Gut to Brain

Gut flora involved in activating anti-myelin T cells in MS

14 December 2018

Gut to Brain

Nerve cells in our brain and spinal cord are protected by a layer of protein and fatty substances called myelin. It’s thought that in multiple sclerosis (MS) our own immune T cells are tricked into attacking this protective coating, the result shown in this brain section from an MS patient brain – myelin in blue (top) is absent from the underlying nerves. Scientists have recently shown that perhaps we should be looking to our gut to understand why and how this happens. The team found that T cells respond to an enzyme formed in bacteria often found in the gastrointestinal flora of MS patients. They hypothesise that the presence of this enzyme in the gut activates T cells before they travel up to the brain and ravage through myelin. Not only does this finding tell us more about the processes underlying MS, but it may be used to create new treatments for the disease.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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