and immunology are key areas of MS research, where researchers seek to
understand the biological processes through which chronic inflammation
leads to demyelination and neurodegeneration in the central nervous
system. Understanding these processes is key to developing new therapies
to block inflammation and nerve cell damage, and to the discovery of
mechanisms through which neurodegeneration can be halted and reversed.
interesting example of how knowledge of the immune response in MS is
evolving is the role of T helper cells. T helper lymphocyte activate
other immune cells and direct them towards specific targets, and for
some time it has been known that a specific subset of T helper cells
known as TH1 cells play an important role in central nervous system inflammation and the development of demyelinating lesions.
cells are now recognised as playing a critical role in MS; this has
become more evident recently with the advent of specific
B-cell-depleting therapies. Other cells that participate in the immune
response, such as monocytes and microglia, are currently being focused
on actively in research, since they may have a central role in the
pathogenesis of the disease.
addition to demyelination, the importance of direct damage to axons and
neuronal cell death is now recognised as a key factor in MS,
particularly in progressive disease. The extent of this
neurodegeneration, and the processes through which it occurs, are now
the subject of intense scrutiny, as blocking the abnormalities in ion
transport and energy metabolism that lead to nerve cell death may help
to prevent the accumulation of disability.