GM-CSF required for the immune attack in multiple sclerosis

The neutralisation of the cytokine GM-CSF could halt the development of multiple sclerosis. This was demonstrated by the research team of the immunologist Burkhard Becher at the University of Zurich in an animal model.

Unlike other known cytokines, they write in the journal Nature Immunology, this messenger substance is essential for the development of the disease. By the end of this year, a clinical trial will be launched in which GM-CSF is to be neutralised in MS patients.

The immune systems main task is to protect us from pathogenic microorganisms. To do so, an armada of immune cells is diligently instructed to search for invading pathogens.

The ability of immune cells to communicate with one another is vital to this protection. Mistakes in the communication can lead to 'misunderstandings' and an erroneous attack against ones own tissues. Such is the case in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes, where the immune system inadvertently attacks the body. So-called helper T cells are chiefly responsible for the fatal immune response.

There are various sub-classes of helper T cells with different tasks and responsibilities.

Clinicians and researchers have long been trying to ascertain which sub-class the rogue T cells that attack the body's own organs in autoimmune diseases actually belong to.